Teens and Energy Drinks

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Monday, February 14, 2011 - 7:46am

New research reveals the possibility of serious side effects in teens who drink highly caffeinated energy drinks.

Pop the top for an instant jolt, but only if you're old enough to handle it.

"We know for a fact that children and teens do not tolerate caffeine as well as adults do," said Mary Claire O’Brien, M.D. of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

What's also known is that teens account for half of the energy drink market.

According to new research from the University of Miami, there were nearly 55-hundred caffeine overdoses reported in the U.S. in 2007.

Of those, 48% occurred in those younger than 19 years of age.

Some of those cases may have been a combination of energy drinks and alcohol, but experts say a jolt of caffeine alone is enough to cause symptoms of an overdose in young people.

"Their heart is beating faster, fluttering, palpitating, they may feel nauseous, they may feel light headed," said Steven Lipshultz, M.D., of the University of Miami.

Some teens are more susceptible than others.

"Children who may have heart diseases, they may have diabetes, they may have seizure disorders, they may have ADHD," said Lipshultz.

Energy drinks aren't the only way kids get caffeine; they are also big soda drinkers.

But there's a big difference between the two.

"The amount of caffeine in soda is regulated, the amount of caffeine in energy drinks is not,” said O’Brien.

The American Beverage Association issued a statement saying the f-d-a has deemed caffeine safe, and that "most mainstream energy drinks actually contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee."

But experts say many teens don't have just one, and that the drinks are marketed to a younger population.

That will be a topic of debate, and more research, for years to come.
 

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