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Teens May Get More Than A Boost After Drinking High Energy Drinks

Following the tragic death of an American teenager after drinking a combination of Mountain Dew, a latte and an energy drink, I felt it appropriate to update and republish this article.

Does your teenager drink high energy drinks?

This article on adolescents and high energy drinks is part of a series on teenage nutrition. You can read the introduction to this series from these two articles “What Is On Your Family’s Breakfast Plate” and “Teenage Nutrition: Why You Should Pick This Battle For Your Adolescent.” We are very excited to bring you this and hope you feel comfortable to add your own thoughts, tips and suggestions.

Teenagers have busy lives. Between school, homework, activities, part-time jobs and a social life, teenagers struggle to fit everything into their time schedule. In the previous article from this series,  “Is Your Teenager’s Caffeine Consumption Too Much?” we mentioned that some teens, especially those who are sleep deprived, use caffeine rich drinks like coffee and colas to stay alert. Some adolescents push it further and drink high energy drinks to get a more powerful extra energy boost. These energy drinks are formulated for this reason: a big boost.

Caffeine is not the only ingredient in these drinks. They are mix of sugar, vitamins, herbs and carbonated water. The amount of caffeine in high energy drinks is about three times the amount of caffeine from a cup of coffee. This figure changes from one high energy drink to another. Each country’s health labeling laws and food regulations are different.

In general, high energy drinks go largely unregulated because they are classified as a food supplement.

The effect of social status influences the consumption of high energy drinks

Teenagers are widely influenced by the opinions of their peers and social status. High energy drinks are labeled and branded to a teenager’s social status.  Most teens know these drinks shouldn’t be drunk to excess. And with warnings labels for children and pregnant women on energy drinks (depending in which country you live) consumption of these drinks can make a teen feel they are entering a game of doing something forbidden. I was surprised to learn that 30-50% of teenagers in America drink these status drinks. As a double dose of ‘what you shouldn’t do’ some teens mix high energy drinks with alcohol. Some teen athletes drink them to perform better (this is dangerous) during a sporting event.

Kids have tried these drinks as tweens. Here was the conversation we had a few years ago between two 11 year olds: my daughter, her friend Michael (name made up) and I.

My Daughter: Hey mom, Michael is drinking those Red Bull drinks that you told us not to drink because they were dangerous! I told him he shouldn’t drink them. You tell him too, he doesn’t believe me.

Me: Michael, are you really drinking these drinks? Do you know they aren’t for kids to drink?

Michael: No, I didn’t know. But, it is okay. We only do it once in a while.

Me: Do your parents know that you drink these drinks?

Michael: Yes, they know.

***Parents, please be aware that high energy drinks are dangerous for children, especially for kids who drink them while doing sports***

The nutritional side effects from consumption of high energy drinks

High energy drinks act like diuretics because of the large doses of caffeine.  This diuretic pulls essential nutrients such as calcium and magnesium out of the teen’s body and into urine to be excreted. Calcium and magnesium are two key minerals that teenagers (because of their high growth pattern) need in higher quantities. Plus, energy drinks contain large doses of vitamin B, taurine and D-glucuronalactone. If a teen drinks more than one energy drink at a time, these added ingredients can add a strong, almost toxic jolt to a teen’s metabolism.

The combination of high physical efforts like sports and high energy drinks are dangerous

Unlike sport drinks, high energy drinks are not adapted to the body’s increased physical and cardiovascular needs during sport. High energy drinks have a pH of 3-4 and are classified as acidic. Combine this acidity with increase of acid production in the body’s vascular system during physical efforts and you have increased chances for a sport related physical injury.

The diuretic effects, as mentioned before, increases a teen athlete’s risk of dehydration. During sport, the teen athlete’s need for water increases. High energy drinks do the opposite of what an athlete needs.

Energy drinks increase blood pressure and peripheral vasoconstriction. The double effects of physical activity and the drinks can cause arrhythmia, cardiac heart palpitations and abnormal heart rhythm.

Medications and high energy drinks

Children who take medications for asthma and attention deficient disorder should never drink high energy drinks. The combination of these pharmaceutical drugs with the side effects of energy drinks can be harmful.  If you teenager is taking medicine, best advice is to discuss frankly with your child and your doctor about avoiding high energy drinks. Read this excellent article from a doctor’s view on energy drinks and children with ADHD and/or asthma.

Would love to hear from you. Shout out your opinion and I will answer.

Check out these other articles on teenage nutrition written in this series: When A Gain In Your Teenager’s Weight May Not Be A Concern, Teens and Endocrine Disruptors, Teens and Eating Disorders, Healthy Breakfast Ideas for Teens, Teens and Caffeine, Importance of Good Nutrition in Teens, Vitamin and Mineral Supplements in Teens,Vegetarianism in Teens. and Hormone Changes in Teens Affect Their Smell.

Warmly, Mary

After writing this article, a father wrote me (see comments below) to express thanks about spreading awareness on high energy drinks. His son, 15 years old, probably died from trying one energy drink. Jim Shepherd wants to spread the word to parents and concerned parties about the dangers of these drinks. Please visit, share and like his Facebook page to learn more and spread the knowledge.

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8 Responses to Teens May Get More Than A Boost After Drinking High Energy Drinks

  1. natural protein powder October 16, 2017 at 15:04 #

    I discourage the use of high energy drinks. I nearly got a heart attack when I combined this with coffee out of mistake.

  2. Wendy crossland April 7, 2012 at 03:08 #

    Mary, these drinks are very dangerous! My 14 year old daughter, Anais, died on December 23rd. Cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity. She consumed 2 energy drinks within 23 hours. I am trying to get these “drinks” FDA regulated. It is so hard to change things when you’re up against a multi-billion dollar industry. Money is power…..

    • mbrighton April 7, 2012 at 15:28 #

      Dear Wendy, My deepest condolences for the loss of Anais. How tragic. How can I or the readers of BrightonYourHealth help in your quest to get high energy drinks regulated by the FDA? If there is something we can do, let us know. In the meantime we will continue to spread awareness to parents and children about the dangers of drinking energy drinks. A friend who is a teacher in the UK told me that many teens drink energy drinks because it is forbidden (and label as ‘cool’) to drink energy drinks. Please keep in touch.

  3. Jim Shepherd April 2, 2012 at 22:44 #

    Thank you Mary, for raising this important topic on your website. My 15-year-old son died to an unexplained arrhythmia, the day he tried his first energy drink at a day-long sporting event in Toronto, Canada. According to police, he received the drink in a free handout by Red Bull representatives. I have created an awareness page on Facebook where you can view the details of Brian’s unfortunate story and that of many others. I do want to reiterate that these drinks are not intended for youth and even one drink could have serious effects on a growing child/teen. The most recent media story on my Facebook page, outlines a 14-year-old girl who drank one energy drink one day, and another drink just under 24 hours later, she collapsed and later died. Her doctors reportedly blame the caffeine. Search “energy drinks jim shepherd” to view my awareness page, you don’t need a Facebook account to view it. Please “like” it and “share” it with those you love.

    • mbrighton April 2, 2012 at 23:25 #

      Jim, My deepest condolences for the death of your son. As I write this I feel so sad for you. So many unanswered questions. Of course, I will like and share your facebook page right away. Please keep us updated on other ways that I can help with awareness. I do feel very strongly that children and teens should not drink energy drinks AT ALL. Where I live (in France) they are sold on the supermarket shelves and are easy to obtain. Horribly, how many deaths have to occur for authorities to do something? (like ban these drinks at sporting events!). I am so sorry for your loss. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do.


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