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

Does your teenager drink high energy drinks?

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, carbonated water and yes, high doses of caffeine. 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. And these high energy drinks are connected 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 forbidden, some teens mix high energy drinks with alcohol. Some teen athletes drink them to perform better (this is wrong, as you will read below) during a sporting event.

Kids have tried these drinks even before they were officially teenagers. Here was the conversation we had last year 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 were dangerous. I told him he should stop. You tell him too, he doesn’t believe me.

Me: Michael, are you really drinking these drinks? Do you know they are bad for your health?

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.

Me: Michael, listen to me. These drinks are not made for teenagers. Really, you shouldn’t drink these drinks. But, if you, do not drink more than one at a time. They can be dangerous.

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 more 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.

The conclusion: Be open with your teen about high energy drinks

As a dietitian and mom I tend to focus a lot of my attention my kid’s health. Researching for this article the dangers of high energy drinks being over consumed plus the negative nutritional side effects have opened my eyes. I think we should be open with teens about these drinks. Although these drinks are not in the same class as drugs and alcohol, I believe we must be vigilant. Should these drinks be sold to teenagers? What are the labeling laws on these drinks where you live? Have your kids ever had a problem with these drinks?

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Embracing a Slow Life in Our Fast Paced World | brightonyourhealth - April 24, 2012

    […] slow movement that I didn’t add to the list is:  slow drinks. I was doing research for an article on high energy drinks for teens, when I stumbled on the opposite of high energy drinks called  […]

  2. Is Your Teenager's Caffeine Consumption Too Much? - brightonyourhealth | brightonyourhealth - April 3, 2012

    […] products. It is an important topic and important also to discuss these drinks with your children. Read the next article in this series on teenage nutrition on energy drinks and view the comment from Jim Shepherd, whose […]

  3. Suzanne Saxe-R, Ed.D - April 1, 2012

    RT @mbrighton66 Teens May Get More Than A Boost After Drinking High Energy Drinks: Are one or two high energy dr… http://t.co/TSM5agPu

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