Buzz Kill In a Bottle
From late-night term papers to rigorous sports competitions, teens push themselves to the limit. Is it any wonder extreme energy drinks are so popular with this age group?
If products with names like Monster XXL, Sobe Adrenaline Rush and Red Bull don’t scare a parent, several recent deaths have been linked to the beverages and many health experts are encouraging parents to take a closer look at the labels.
You may be surprised at what’s in those drinks.
Energy drinks contain caffeine, usually as much as or more than an average cup of brewed coffee. Many are also sweetened, containing as much as 270 calories a serving.
Manufacturers may add vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements to the mix with the result that “we don’t know what these drinks can do,” says Dr. Marcie Schneider, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition, Elk Grove Village, Ill.
Caffeine in the drinks does have a track record, one that may cause concern.
“It disrupts sleep patterns, which isn’t good for brain development,” says Kathleen Miller, Ph.D. at the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA).
Miller also cautions that energy drinks may cause an increase in a teen’s heart rate. However, it’s not just the formulation, but also the way the drinks are marketed that’s worrisome. Ad campaigns tie energy drinks to rebellion and extreme sports events, according to Miller, an RIA research scientist in Western New York state. She sees a link between energy drink consumption and risk-taking in college students.
According to Miller’s research of close to 800 undergraduate college students, those who consume energy drinks six or more days a month are approximately three times as likely to have smoked cigarettes, abused prescription drugs, and been in physical fights than students who drink fewer or no energy drinks. In addition, students often use energy drinks as mixers with alcohol.
Although Miller doesn’t think substances in the drinks cause risky behavior, she says the buzz from consuming large amounts of caffeine may appeal to habitual sensation seekers.
Controlling your child’s consumption of energy drinks may be impossible once he’s in college. Until then you can take steps to discourage an energy-drink habit.
Don’t bring the beverages into the house.
“Young children and preteens should avoid them altogether,” Miller says.
Talk to teens about what’s in the drinks.
“I think a lot of times kids don’t know about them,” says Dr. Schneider, Greenwich, Conn.
Dispel the misconception about using energy drinks as a cocktail mixer. The beverages don’t counter the effects of alcohol, as many teens believe, Miller says.
Find out why your teen is drinking these products. If your teen is exhausted and compensating for a lack of sleep, fix the problem. Don’t medicate with energy drinks, Miller says.
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