Are Energy Drinks Safe For Kids?
What are energy drinks?
Energy drinks are drinks designed to increase stamina and improve physical performance. Some energy drinks are designed especially for athletes, but most are produced and marketed for the general public.
Why are they hugely popular with kids?
- The proponents of energy drinks claim that these drinks increase physical stamina, boost mental alertness and concentration, increase overall well-being, stimulate metabolism and help eliminate waste from the body.
- The drinks are marketed as healthy, fun and youthful, and many children, young people are taken in by the excitement and hype created around them. However, evidence shows that it may be wise to be cautious in the consumption of energy drinks.
What do these drinks contain?
Energy drinks usually contain ingredients such as:
A typical energy drink provides about 80mg of caffeine per can which is about the same as the amount of caffeine provided by a cup of instant coffee.
Guarana is a caffeine-containing extract from a South American plant.
The amount of sugar in energy drinks is usually much higher (10-12%) compared to sports drinks (6-8%). Too much sugar can lead to dental problems and obesity, slow the body's absorption of water, which makes these drinks unsuitable for kids.
This is a source of protein.
What are the health effects of energy drinks?
- Caffeine, taurine (a source of protein) occur naturally in the body, but the fact that they are present in much higher doses in energy drinks may be a cause for concern.
- Doctors say that caffeine can have an effect on the growing brain of a kid and may cause a decline in the body's immune system.
- Parents, guardians must be aware that young children could have disturbed sleeping patterns, increased heart rate, suffer from bed-wetting, dehydration and show symptoms of anxiety after consuming the caffeine in just one can of energy drink.
- Some kids are sensitive to caffeine, showing symptoms of caffeine sensitivity (epilepsy seizures, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal upsets).
Do children need energy drinks at all?
Certainly not, if they mostly follow a sedentary lifestyle.
- Energy drinks contain high calories which add up significantly if children are drinking a lot of this stuff. Those kids who need extra calories, 100 percent fresh fruit juice is a much better option.
- In addition, children don't really need the extra sodium these beverages provide.
- Some energy drinks are said to include natural vitamins and minerals, but these can be easily obtained from natural foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables.
Can energy drinks be used as a satisfactory meal replacement for kids?
No, not at any point of time. Remember, they are 'drinks', not meals.
Although high-caffeine energy drinks do provide some energy (in the form of sugar) and vitamins (some brands), this does not mean that they can substitute a balanced meal. They contain very little protein or minerals, and no dietary fibre.