TIME Diet/Nutrition

Energy Drinks Are Hurting Young Kids

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Cans of energy drinks are displayed in a store in San Diego on November 10, 2006. AFP/Getty Images

Poison centers are fielding calls about adverse health events from energy drinks for kids as young as six

Over 40% of calls to U.S. poison centers concerning energy drinks are for kids under age 6, some of whom reported experiencing symptoms like serious cardiac and neurological problems.

In a new study that examined the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System, looking at reports from Oct. 2010 to Sept. 2013, researchers found that of the 5,156 reported cases of energy drink exposure, 40% where unintentional exposures by kids. Symptoms related to the heart, like abnormal rhythms, were noted in 57% of the reported cases. Neurological issues were reported in 55% of the cases.

American Heart Association

Prior data has shown that young kids are passing up caffeinated beverages like soda, but are instead consuming more energy drinks and coffee. The FDA is currently investigating the risks of added caffeine in products consumed by young people.

The trouble with energy drinks is that they are not always regulated the same way as other beverages. For instance, some are considered dietary supplements, and don’t need FDA safety approval. The FDA considers caffeine to be safe, but some energy drinks can contain up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per can, as compared to 100-150 mg in a coffee, the study’s authors say.

Researchers are unsure what part of energy drinks can cause adverse health problems. It’s possible other ingredients besides caffeine can result in medical issues.

The American Beverage Association responded to the study, which is not yet published but was presented recently at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions:

“This abstract has not been published and therefore the authors’ full methodology and analysis is not available for review. In the past, various experts have raised concerns regarding misinterpretation and inherent limitations of data from National Poison Data System when it comes to Energy Drinks. Based on the most recent government data reported in the journal Pediatrics, children under 12 have virtually no caffeine consumption from energy drinks.

Even so, leading energy drink makers voluntarily place advisory statements on energy drink packaging stating that energy drinks are not recommended for children. They also have voluntarily pledged not to market these products to children or sell them in K-12 schools. These guidelines and more are noted in the ABA Guidance on the Responsible Labeling and Marketing of Energy Drinks.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Why Health Officials Are Concerned About Energy Drinks

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WendellandCarolyn—Getty Images

New report advocates for more regulation

The energy drink market is booming, but that’s not necessarily a good thing when it comes to public health, says the World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe.

In a new report in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, João Breda, who works in the division of noncommunicable diseases at WHO Europe, and his colleagues reviewed data on the health risks of energy drinks and the current policies that regulate them. They concluded that health concerns from the scientific and medical community are valid, and that consuming high levels of caffeine very quickly can cause negative health effects or “caffeine intoxication.” Those effects can include nausea, high blood pressure and heart palpitations. Some deaths have even been linked to energy drink consumption, like that of a 16-year-old girl who went into cardiac arrest after drinking the beverages, but none have been definitively proven.

MORE: What’s In Your Energy Drink?

WHO is especially concerned about what happens when people mix energy drinks and alcohol. “The consumption of high amounts of caffeine contained within energy drinks reduces drowsiness without diminishing the effects of alcohol resulting in a state of ‘wide-awake- drunkenness,’ keeping the individual awake longer with the opportunity to continue drinking,” the authors write in the journal. (A small study in July suggests the same thing: people who drank spirits mixed with energy drinks had a greater desire to keep drinking than those sipping regular mixed drinks.)

Sleep-starved college students aren’t the only ones guzzling energy drinks. The WHO report cites estimates that energy drinks make up 43% of caffeine exposure in children.

In Europe, some countries are taking energy drink regulation very seriously: Sweden has banned the sale of energy drinks to kids. In the U.S., energy drink regulation is incredibly weak, and depending on how an energy drink makes it to market, it may not even have to disclose how much caffeine it contains. The WHO report recommends that policymakers adopt more measures to get a tighter grip on the industry, including establishing an upper limit for caffeine content, enforcing labeling and marketing standards, regulating the sale of energy drinks to kids, training healthcare workers about the risks and even screening patients with a history of diet issues and substance abuse for dangerous energy drink consumption. They also call for more research on how energy drinks affect us. “From a review of the literature, it would appear that concerns in the scientific community and among the public regarding the potential adverse health effects of the increased consumption of energy drinks are broadly valid,” they write—a finding that warrants further research, policy and caution.

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TIME Energy drinks

Lithuania Is Banning Red Bull for Some Reason

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U.S. Senate Majority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) holds up a can of Monster energy drink as he testifies during a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee July 31, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Bummer, brah

Lithuania’s parliament voted on Thursday to ban the sale of high-caffeine energy drinks to minors, as companies like Red Bull and Monster face increased scrutiny in the European Union.

The small Baltic country’s legislation prohibits drinks that contain 150 milligrams of caffeine per liter to be sold to minors, reports the Wall Street Journal. Monster Energy and Red Bull have 338 milligrams and 319 milligrams of caffeine per liter, respectively, according to caffeineinformer.com.

Lithuania’s law could have a large impact on industry sales: a European Food Safety Authority study found in 2013 that adolescents are far more likely to consume energy drinks than adults, with 68 percent of Europeans aged 10 to 18 years old drinking them.

Other countries are cracking down, too: the U.K. will require companies to label drinks with more than 150 milligrams per liter of caffeine, and German regulators have called for tighter energy drink controls.

And in the United States, legislators in Chicago, Maryland sought to introduce restricting sales to minors, but both efforts failed to take hold. Red Bull and Monster were questioned in Senate hearing last summer over allegations they were targeting youth.

The energy drink market has boomed over the past 10 years, with global energy-drink sales more than quadrupled to $27.54 billion in 2013, according to research firm Euromonitor. Red Bull, based in Austria, has a 31.5 percent global share, and California’s Monster has 14 percent.

[WSJ]

 

TIME

The One Good Thing About Teens And Sports Drinks

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Tony Cordoza—Getty Images

Researchers confirm a strong connection between sports and energy drinks and smoking, video game playing and sugary soda consumption. But the beverages were also linked to more physical activity among teens.

Considering what we know about kids and sports drinks — briefly, that according to leading health groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, most children should not be drinking them — the small silver lining, according to a recent study, is that kids who drink them tend to exercise more than those who don’t. But they were also more likely to do things that harm their health, too.

Nicole Larson and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health asked nearly 3000 students in grades 6 through 12 an exhaustive series of 235 questions and concluded that nearly 40% drank a sports drink at least once a week. Both boys and girls consuming sports drinks regularly were more likely to smoke and to play video games, the researchers found. They were also more likely to drink sugary soda and juice. The fact that sports and energy drink consumption are correlated with other risky behaviors, such as smoking, isn’t a surprise (though, to be clear, the researchers do not suggest a cause-effect relationship between the two).

As for the finding that the big sports-drink fans were also more likely to exercise and participate in organized sports? The researchers say that could be due to the fact that sports drink makers often partner with athletic groups to target adolescent athletes specifically.

Consumption of sports and energy drinks has tripled among teens in the past decade and about 12% of U.S. teens still drink a sports or energy drink on any given day. Taken together, the body of research suggests that athletes need to be better educated about the healthiest way to hydrate: drinking water.

TIME Food & Drink

Among Kids, Soda Is Out, Energy and Coffee Drinks Are All the Buzz

Study of caffeine intake for people age 2 to 22 reveals new trends

Kids are drinking less soda, but more coffee and energy drinks, according to a recent study.

In research published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers looked at trends in caffeine intake among people ages 2 to 22 between 1999 to 2010. They found that in 1999, 62 percent of kids and young adults got most of their caffeine from soda. But in 2010, that number dropped significantly to 38 percent.

Energy drinks were not a factor at the beginning of the study, but between 2009 to 2010, they rose to 6 percent of caffeine intake among young people. Coffee also made a jump, from 10 percent of caffeine intake in 1999-2000 to about 24 percent in 2009-2010.

Overall during the time period, researchers found that 73 percent of young people consumed some caffeine on a given day. Even more startling was the fact that 63 percent of kids aged between 2 and 5 consumed caffeine.

The researchers speculated that increased awareness over the link between soda and obesity could be one of the reasons fewer young people are guzzling sodas. But any increase in energy drink consumption among youth is concerning, given that high levels of caffeine can have a greater impact on smaller bodies. The American Academy of Pediatrics says energy drinks “should never be consumed by children or adolescents.”

Caffeine in moderation is considered safe by the FDA, among adults at least. The agency says 400 milligrams a day or about four to five cups of coffee is not considered dangerous for an adult, but the FDA has no recommendations for kids. Last May the agency announced that it is taking a closer look at the safety of caffeinated products for kids and adolescents. The investigation is still under way.

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