When I was in high school, Starbucks didn’t exist (yes, I’m old). OK, it existed, but just in some alleyway in Seattle, and it certainly wasn’t a buzzword among my classmates. There was a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts, but if we stopped in there, it was for something deep-fried and frosted. Needed to stay up all night to cram for a test? We popped No-Doz pills purchased over the counter in the supermarket.
By the time I reached college, I started drinking coffee, although there was nothing frou-frou about the offerings on or off campus — you either drank it black or light and sweet. All in all, it wasn’t incredibly healthy, but it was still relatively harmless.
Now, as an adult and a parent, I always think it’s unsettling when I see tweens clutching Starbucks cups and teens holding cans of energy drinks. I was barely allowed to drink Coca-Cola as a kid, never mind beverages that exist solely for the purpose of boosting energy. Aren’t we always talking about how kids have too much energy as it is?
And now comes a study that says energy drinks can be dangerous for kids and teens, with the potential harms from energy drinks including heart palpitations, seizures, strokes and even sudden death — in kids with preexisting conditions and healthy kids as well.
The medical journal Pediatrics has published the findings of a report that reviewed data that said some drinks have four to five times more caffeine than soda, and some kids are drinking them four to five times a day. The study authors are advising pediatricians and parents to tell kids not to drink them routinely.
The energy drinks often contains ingredients that can cause nausea and diarrhea, and some feel they should be regulated like cigarettes and alcohol. No safe levels of consumption have been established for kids, according to the report.
Of course limiting energy drinks in the teen sector will be tough. Sales of energy drinks are expected to top $9 billion this year, according to MSNBC.com, with one-third of teens consuming them on a regular basis. And the danger of energy drinks increases when mixed with alcohol, which is a trend among young people.
Is there a parent out there who feels good about kids and teens consuming energy drinks in the first place? Should we be talking to our kids about these beverages the same way we do about drugs, alcohol and tobacco? Or is the lesson just moderation? It seems like a definitive answer isn’t available just yet, but this study seems to be enough of an alarm bell that parents will hopefully talk to their kids about the very real, and very scary consequences of too much of a good thing.
Do you think kids should be allowed to consume energy drinks?