Thursday, June 19, 2008

Teens and Energy Drinks

By Connect with Kids

“They’re going to get that boost, but in the long run they’re not going to be doing their best. And they may not even notice they’re not doing their best.”

– Elizabeth Redmond, Ph.D., Nutritionist.

In the past few years the market for so called ‘energy drinks’ has exploded. Full of sugar and caffeine, there’s now around a dozen energy drinks on the market, and they’re very popular with kids.

“I’ve had Rockstar,” says Hunter, 13.

Thirteen-year-old Will’s favorites? “Monster, Rooster Booster.”

“Sobe’s Adrenaline Rush,” answers T-J, 14.

“It tastes very good,” explains 16-year-old Corrissa, “It gives me energy.”

Energy, according to some of the marketing, makes these drinks good for school or sports performance. “They do kind of imply they’re sports drinks,” says Nutritionist Elizabeth Redmond, Ph.D., “but a sports drink like Gatorade or something would hydrate you. And these drinks have a lot of caffeine, and they’re actually going to have a diuretic effect and can dehydrate.”

And while the caffeine in many of these drinks, the same as the amount in an average cup of coffee, gives kids a boost, a couple hours later, they crash.

“Yeah if I drink one I might be kind of hyper for a while and then I’ll be like ‘Ehhhh’ and get real tired,” explains 12-year-old Luke.

Experts add the side effects of caffeine also include loss of appetite, moodiness, headaches, nausea, difficulty sleeping.

And while there haven’t been any long term studies on the effect of regular caffeine use by kids, Redmond explains that, “Once you get used to the caffeine boost you’re going to want to keep getting it. But it’s just not a healthy lifestyle that you want to get into.”

Experts say parents should teach kids caffeine can be addictive, and that if they’re looking for better performance, there’s a much better way. “Getting enough sleep, being hydrated and eating a healthy diet would be the three biggest things you’d want to look at if you wanted to get more energy to do better at sports,” says Redmond.

Tips for Parents

Now more than ever, it seems that students are relying on caffeinated products like coffee, Red Bull and caffeine pills to help them stay awake to study for tests. In fact, some experts report that caffeine dependency among high school students has steadily increased over the past five years. Consider these recent studies of children and caffeine consumption:

A researcher at the University of California-San Francisco found that when school-aged children took a high daily dose of caffeine, their attention span decreased. And after the effects of the caffeine dissipated, their performance in various tasks was impaired.

National Institute of Mental Health child psychiatry researcher Judith Rapoport, M.D., found 8- to-13-year-olds who regularly consumed high doses of caffeine were judged more restless by teachers, and that one-third were hyperactive enough to meet the criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

In a study by Stanford University neurobiologist Avram Goldstein, fifth- and sixth-graders at a Denver school deprived of daily caffeine reported having symptoms including trouble thinking clearly, not feeling energetic and getting angry. Even children who typically consume 28 milligrams a day (less than an average soda) felt symptoms.

Since caffeine leaches small amounts of calcium from the bones, a 1994 Harvard study concluded that soda consumption increases the possibility for bone fracture among teenage girls.

Even though these products may seem like a quick fix for helping students study late into the night, most teens are unaware of how caffeine affects their bodies. According to the Nemours Foundation, caffeine is a mild stimulant that causes increased heart rate and alertness. Most people who are sensitive to caffeine experience a temporary increase in energy and elevation in mood. Yet, this energized feeling quickly evaporates and leaves students feeling tired and irritable. The Mayo Clinic cites these additional side effects of caffeine:

Intestinal upsets, such as constipation and diarrhea
Jitters, anxiety, heart palpitations or rapid heart rate
Increase in blood pressure
Temporary depression

Calcium loss: Kids build their peak bone mass as they grow through calcium intake and exercise. Yet, caffeine causes calcium loss, so if they’re drinking more coffee and soda, but less milk, they not only get less calcium from the dairy products but also lose calcium due to increased caffeine intake.

Dehydration: Because caffeine is a diuretic, it can cause your body to become weak from not having enough water. Although you may think you’re getting plenty of liquids, caffeine works against the body in two ways: It has a dehydrating effect on the body’s cells and increases the need to urinate. It is particularly important for active teens who play sports to drink non-caffeinated beverages each day to avoid dehydration.

Even though these side effects exist, caffeine remains one of the most popular drugs in the United States. Experts estimate that more than 90% of Americans consume caffeine every day, while 11 million Americans consume too much caffeine (over 300 milligrams). While no definitive numbers exist concerning how much coffee teens consume, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that children and teens guzzle more than 64 gallons of caffeinated soda a year – an amount that has tripled for teens since 1978, doubled for the 6-11 set and increased by a quarter for under-5 tots.

According to the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFICF), coffee is the chief source of caffeine in the United States. An 8-ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee typically contains 85 milligrams of caffeine. An 8-ounce serving of brewed tea has 40 milligrams, caffeinated soft drinks contain an average of 24 milligrams per 8-ounce serving and an ounce of milk chocolate has just 6 milligrams. Even though these products contain caffeine, they can all be found at school and at home, increasing the amount that teens consume.

Some health officials are concerned about the rise in popularity of so-called ‘energy drinks.’ Part of their concern is that the drinks, including Red Bull, Adrenaline Rush, and Rock Star Energy Drink, are being misused as party drinks. According to an online publication of the Boston University School of Public Health, the beverages are used by party-goers to get drunk faster. “It definitely put me on a fast pace,” one young woman told BU. “It gets you drunk quicker if you can stand the taste of it.”

Most of the drinks contain stimulants such as caffeine and guarana, a derivative of a South American plant.
Officials are concerned about the effects of the high-energy drinks when mixed with alcohol. What exactly is in an energy drink like Red Bull? Here’s a list of some ingredients from the manufacturer’s web site:

Taurine. An amino acid.
Glucoronolactone. Said to “accelerate the elimination of…harmful substances…has a detoxifying effect.”
Caffeine. Known for its stimulating effect.
Carbohydrates. Sugar in the form of sucrose and glucose.
Vitamins. B-complex vitamins.
The company that manufactures Red Bull says the drink was developed especially for “times of increased stress or strain.” Red Bull claims to:

Increase physical endurance
Improve reaction speed and concentration
Increase mental alertness
Improves the overall feeling of well being
Stimulate metabolism and increase stamina
But the main concern among doctors is the effect of energy drinks when mixed with alcoholic beverages like Vodka. What you get, one nutritionist says, is “a wide-awake drunk.”

Just because your child may be drinking energy beverages, doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is mixing them with alcohol. There are signs of teenage drinking parents can be on the lookout for. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has some tips on how to tell if your child may be in trouble with alcohol:

Smell of alcohol on breath, or sudden, frequent use of breath mints.
Abrupt changes in mood or attitude.
Sudden decline in attendance or performance at school.
Sudden resistance to discipline at school.
Uncharacteristic withdrawal from family, friends or interests.
Heightened secrecy about actions or possessions.
Association with a new group of friends whom your child refuses to discuss.

University of Buffalo
United States Department of Agriculture
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.
Boston University School of Public Health