Energy drinks + teens = dangerous behavior

Filed under: Teens, Health & Safety: Babies, Nutrition: Health, Alcohol & Drugs

As a parent, you probably suspected that energy drinks like Red Bull aren't the healthiest things for a teen. But many look the other way when it comes to energy drinks as they are legal and a lot less harmful than a lot of other things the kids could be drinking.

It turns out there's more to energy drinks than meets the eye. For one thing, the caffeine level varies widely from brand to brand. While a 12 oz. Starbucks latte provides a 75 mg of caffeine, the same amount of Amp contains 107 mg and a Spike Shooter jolts the body with 428 mg. Students experiencing health problems after drinking energy drinks have led to schools in several states to ban the beverages.

But something far more troubling than hyperactivity or headaches has been observed in young athletes who regularly consume energy drinks.

A researcher at the University of Buffalo says that high consumption of energy drinks is associated with "toxic jock" behavior, a mixture of risky and aggressive behaviors that can include unprotected sex, substance abuse and violence. Although energy drinks themselves are not being blamed for this behavior, energy drink usage should be a red flag to parents that their child is willing to take risks with their health.

And when high schoolers turn into college students, a whole new usage for energy drinks appears: as a cocktail mixer. Combining a caffeinated beverage with alcohol results in a wide awake drunk who is just as intoxicated, but doesn't feel it. According to a study in Academic Emergency Medicine, students who mixed energy drinks with alcohol got drunk twice as often as those who consumed plain alcohol and were more likely to be injured or require medical treatment while drinking. Also, collaborating the "toxic jock" research, the study found energy drink mixers were more likely to be victims or perpetrators of aggressive sexual behavior.

When dealing with kids and energy drinks, the best defense against this problem might be a good offense. Teaching your kids from an early age to make healthy choices when it comes to eating and drinking is essential.

  • Lay off the soda. Many places now offer milk or juice instead of pop with kid meals.
  • Plain water is healthy and a money saving selection for the entire family when eating out.
  • If your child is excessively tired, consider an earlier bedtime, even if it's not cool.
  • Sometimes lethargy is confused with tiredness and physical activity like a brisk walk, bike ride or impromptu dance session with an Ipod can be just as effective as a Red Bull.

If energy drinks have the potential to be a gateway beverage to troublesome behavior, it's good to know in order to nip the problem in the bud.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.