Hot Topic: Energy Drinks

During my time in schools I often get questions from teachers and parents about the safety of energy drinks and how they can affect children. My most common response is to encourage kids to quench thirst with water, 100% fruit juice or milk, and to keep energized with a variety of foods from Canada’s Food Guide. Ensuring they are eating a well balanced diet can keep energy levels up throughout the day rather than the “quick fix” of energy drinks. Here’s a bit more info on the basics of energy drinks:

What are Energy Drinks?

Energy drinks are beverages that claim to stimulate and energize the user. They contain high amounts of caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant that makes the user more alert and delays sleep.

Examples of energy drinks include:

Monster ®

-Red Bull Energy Drink ®

Red Rain ®

Rockstar ®

Why should I be concerned about Energy Drinks?

Research has indicated that children and teens are the main consumers of energy drinks. The primary reasons students gave for drinking energy drinks were to increase energy, improve athletic performance and because of the taste, peer pressure and attractive packaging.

Teachers and school administrators are concerned about the consumption of energy drinks because students who drink them have increased behavioral problems and are unable to concentrate in class.

What are the health risks of too much caffeine?

Over consumption of caffeine through beverages such as energy drinks can cause the following negative symptoms:

Anxiety                                        – Nausea and vomiting

– Dehydration                                – Rapid heartbeat 

Electrolyte disturbances             – Restlessness

Excessive urination                    – Sleeplessness

Headaches

As mentioned, encouraging a healthy balanced diet from Eating well with Canada’s food guide would be my recommendation for providing adequate energy to school aged children, rather than the potentially high sugar high caffeine “quick fix”.

References: Dietitians of Canada, Energy Drinks – Do they have a place in the diet of Canadians. 2005. Health Canada, It’s Your Health. Safe Use of Energy Drinks. 2005

Kristin Harris is a registered dietitian with Kids Eat Smart Foundation Newfoundland and Labrador.

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One comment

  1. Heather Russell · · Reply

    Great article — not so many years ago when I was working at a job that was physically and mentally demanding, and included overnight shifts, I drank energy drinks, the Mountain Dew energy drink being my favourite. And yes, the ingredients in these drinks would make me behave “silly.” The strongest I drink these days is Tim Horton’s coffee.

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