They are everywhere. Cans marketed as “energy drinks” fill the beverage isles and cold drink containers at local grocery stores and quick stop markets all across the country. They have catchy names like Monster, Red Bull, Burn, Full-Throttle and Rockstar. What kid doesn’t want to be a rock star?
The companies that produce these drinks say they are not meant for anyone under 18, and usually somewhere in the fine print you’ll see a warning, but that’s not stopping kids from consuming them.
According to Forbes.com, energy drinks make up a small portion of the beverage market, but they are the fastest growing segment. What’s the reason for the growth spurt? Pre-teens and teens are giving them a try and like what they consume.
They do provide a kick of energy, mainly because they are loaded with caffeine. How much caffeine is in these drinks is under debate because many of the drinks are marketed as supplements. Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) therefore companies are able to skirt-around the 0.02 percent of caffeine allowed in soda drinks.
Under FDA rules, soda can’t contain more than 71 milligrams of caffeine in every 12 ounces. Some energy drinks, on the other hand, can contain as much as 500 milligrams per serving. Many of the drinks are also packed with sugar and sodium.
Along with the popularity of energy drinks with pre-teens and teens comes a sharp increase in cases of caffeine toxicity and overdose for this age group. But could too much caffeine cause a child to die?
The parents of Anais Fournier, a 14-year-old girl in Maryland, believe that’s exactly what happened to their daughter. Anais drank two 24-ounce energy drinks while hanging out with her friends last December. She went into cardiac arrest the next day, and died six days later.
The teenager had a common heart condition known as mitral valve prolapse, which causes the heart valves not to close properly. The condition is fairly common in people and for the most part is harmless. The girl’s physician had told her parents that it posed little risk to her health.
Her parents are suing Monster Energy claiming that the caffeine in the product contributed to her death. The company denys that the 2 drinks caused the child’s caffeine toxicity. Her parents have filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to see if Monster Energy has been tied to any other deaths. They say they want to see the FDA regulate the amount of caffeine allowed in energy drinks.
In 2011, the journal Pediatrics reviewed studies, along with media and government reports about energy drinks and health related problems. The review was a paper titled “ Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults.” In the report the authors cautioned pediatricians to be aware of the safety issues surrounding energy drinks particularly for children and teenagers with heart-problems, diabetes and ADHD. The potential problems listed were heart palpitations, seizures, strokes and even sudden death.
Since that time pediatric health organizations, as well as sports organizations, have made known their concerns and issued warnings to parents about energy drinks and kids.
The FDA is also investigating four other deaths to see if they may be related to Monster energy drinks. Right now the reports do not specify whether alcohol or drugs may also have been a factor in the deaths.
Parents need to talk to their children about energy drinks and what is in them. There is a lot of peer pressure to consume these drinks and many kids (along with adults) think they are sodas or sports drinks. They are not.
Your child may not have a heart problem, diabetes or ADHD but they are still susceptible to caffeine toxicity or even a caffeine overdose. You probably have experienced too much caffeine and its effects- do you want your child experiencing that ten-fold?