Researchers Take Aim at Energy and Sports Drinks

Filed under: In The News, Nutrition: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Nutrition: Big Kids, Nutrition: Tweens, Nutrition: Teens

Energy and Sports Drinks

Energy and sports drinks often contain dangerously high levels of caffeine and herbal stimulants. Credit: Getty Images

Distilled water remains safe for your kids to drink. For now.

But it seems doctors, researchers and Mindy down at the food co-op have systemically eliminated all the other beverage choices on the menu.

Milk? It's fattening and, let's face it, your kid is probably allergic to it, anyway. Soda pop? Oh, good Lord! Juice? Well, maybe. If you pick the fruit and squeeze it yourself.

Of course, there's always energy and sports drinks. Or not.

"There's no place for energy drinks for kids," researcher Marcie Beth Schneider, an adolescent physician in Greenwich, Conn., tells U.S. News and World Report. "There's a place for sports drinks, but that place is very specific."

Swell. So, what's the problem with these beverages?

Schneider and her fellow researchers say the drinks often contain dangerously high levels of caffeine and herbal stimulants. Sometimes, she tells the magazine, a single energy drink contains 500 mg of caffeine. That's the equivalent of 14 cans of soda pop.

Such high amounts of caffeine can lead to high blood pressure, high heart rate, insomnia and scraping your child off the ceiling, Schneider tells U.S. News & World Report.

While caffeine perks adults up, children's bodies are smaller. We're talking crazy time in the monkey pen.

"Kids don't need to have this," she tells the magazine. "This is not something they should be drinking."

Her prescription for a tired child? More rest.

The makers of Red Bull tells U.S. News & World Report a can of their product contains more caffeine than a cup of coffee and contains ingredients approved by European health officials.

Researchers point out that kids tend to drink more than one can at a time and chug the stuff like they were at a frat party. They add that half the caffeine overdoses reported in the United States in 2007 were by kids younger than 19.

So, that's the knock on energy drinks. What's the problem with sports drinks? Red Bull may gave you wings, but Gatorade is just supposed to replenish your electrolytes.

The problem is, kids think energy drinks and sports drinks are interchangeable. They're not.

Researchers, who compiled a report for the American Academy of Pediatrics, also tell U.S. News & World Report that sports drinks have too many calories and increase the risk of obesity and bad teeth.

"We want kids to be focusing on water and calcium," Schneider tells the magazine.

Good luck with that.

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