The popularity and increased use of energy drinks among youth in Nova Scotia remains a serious concern for physicians.
We’ve discussed the dangers of energy drinks before, but as school gets back in session, students will soon find themselves scrambling for that extra burst of energy to get them through the day, test, and/or study session. This year, we want children and youth to reach for water and healthy food options when they need a jolt of energy; not energy drinks.
According to the Nova Scotia Student Drug Use Survey, youth in Nova Scotia are consuming energy drinks for the increased stimulation, attention and memory, decreased mental fatigue, and improved performance on some physical activities.
In the 2012 Student Drug Use Survey nearly half of Nova Scotia Grade 7 students reported consuming energy drinks in the 12 months prior to the survey. This increases to 71% by Grade 12.
The levels of caffeine found within some energy drinks contain as much as levels found within 14 cans of Coca-Cola. The current approach of warning labels isn’t effective in deterring youth from consuming energy drinks.
We also know that 25 per cent of Nova Scotia’s youth in high school are mixing it with alcohol.
The consumption of caffeinated alcohol is a significant issue in Nova Scotia with a direct link between the consumption of caffeinated alcohol and increased injury levels.
There is also a misconception among many energy drink consumers that energy drinks are natural – a message reinforced through industry advertising, by using words such as “herbal” in the product description, building on the misconception that herbal is harmless. This simply isn’t true.
This is what energy drinks are really doing to your kids.
Highly-caffeinated beverages, like energy drinks, present significant health risks to children and youth. Too much caffeine can result in nausea, vomiting, heart irregularities, and/or anxiety.
Energy drinks, have been reported in association with serious adverse effects, especially in children, adolescents, and young adults with seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, or mood and behavior disorder with those who take certain medications.
A small amount of caffeine could also cause sleeping problems, headaches, irritability and nervousness.
According to Health Canada’s Expert Panel on Caffeinated Energy Drinks, energy drinks can have a negative impact on your health because of its high caffeine and sugar content. These ingredients lead to energy crashes, dependency, and cavities.
Health Canada also warns that there are possible side-effects in children and youth such as:
- Increased heart beat
- Cold sweats
- Increased urine
Parents, teachers, coaches, and others caring for children and youth need to play a leading role in limiting the availability and consumption of energy drinks among our youth.
Children in school require a significant amount of energy and brain power to grow, learn, and perform well in class. This can be best achieved by making sure that our children are consuming nutrient-rich foods and beverages, avoiding too many calories, fats, and sugars while being physically active every day.
Energy drinks don’t give kids the nutrients they need, and instead provide “quick fixes” that precede intense mood and energy crashes. Instead, water can hydrate and energize kids without the added caffeine and health risks.
To learn more about caffeinated energy drinks and youth, read Rethink Your Drink: The Real Effects of Energy Drinks.