Energy drinks are an incredibly popular form of caffeinated drink, sold in stores, cafes, and bars across the world. In the US alone, energy drink sales reached $14 billion in 2021, and while they might not be targeted specifically at children, they do hold appeal, especially with teenagers. The likes of Red Bull and Monster have massive sponsorship deals in BMX, skateboarding, cliff diving, mountain biking, and a host of other sports.
Children are not prohibited from buying energy drinks, but most are unlikely to read and heed the advice of warnings on labels. Pediatric and health experts state that there are no benefits to children drinking these highly caffeinated drinks. They do say, however, that there are plenty of potential side effects including caffeine addiction and withdrawals, and health complaints such as cardiac arrhythmia.
Are There Any Benefits To Energy Drinks For Children?
Energy drinks typically contain large amounts of caffeine: there is roughly the same caffeine in a 330ml can of Red Bull as there is in a similarly sized cup of brewed coffee.
Energy drinks also contain a host of other stimulants like guarana, taurine, and L-carnitine.
Although sugar-free variants do exist, the original variants of these drinks also contain similar amounts of sugar, per 100ml, as soda drinks like Coca-Cola (11g/100ml vs 10.6g/100ml respectively).
There are no health benefits to consuming energy drinks.
Are Energy Drinks Bad For Kids?
Pediatricians state that children under 12 years old should avoid caffeine altogether while those aged over 12 should be limited to a maximum of 100mg per day. 100mg is roughly equivalent to ¾ of a can of Red Bull, ½ a can of Monster, or 2 cans of Coca-Cola. Drinking more than this can cause children to become hyperactive, especially because caffeine is only one of a list of stimulants used in these drinks.
Different children have different caffeine tolerance levels, which means that 100mg of caffeine might have little effect on one child but serious implications on another. Side effects of caffeine overdose or intolerance include insomnia, moodiness, anxiety, and mood swings. Potentially more serious effects include increased blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, and even seizures.
Regular consumption of caffeine can also lead to addiction, and caffeine addiction is a difficult habit to kick. Withdrawal carries its own set of symptoms and side effects. Fatigue and headaches, increased irritability, pain, and a lack of concentration are among the side effects. It can take days or weeks to kick a caffeine habit.
Alternatives To Energy Drinks For Kids
It is best for children to avoid energy drinks altogether, especially considering they are likely to be getting caffeine from other soda-based sources. The best and healthiest alternative to these drinks is water. It keeps children hydrated and does not contain caffeine, sugar, or other additives. Other alternatives include milk and plant-based milk, coconut water, or fruit juice.
Can Minors Buy Energy Drinks In The US?
There is currently no law that prohibits children from buying energy drinks in the US. No matter how old the child or the caffeine content of the drink, children are permitted to buy these drinks. England and Lithuania are two countries that have already banned the sale of energy drinks to children and other countries are likely to follow suit. For now, however, minors are legally permitted to buy energy drinks in the US.
There is ongoing debate surrounding the sale of energy drinks to minors. Critics point to a relatively small number of deaths seemingly caused by energy drinks, while others say that there is no scientific reason to ban the sale, stating that if caffeine consumption is the concern, then drinks like Coca Cola should also be banned, and if sugar is the worry then all sugary drinks and snacks should be prohibited. However, health experts do advise that children’s daily caffeine intake should be limited according to their age.
Featured Image Credit: engin akyurt, Unsplash
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