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Study Warns That Energy Drinks Can be Deadly for Children

Nov 21, 2014

Research presented this week at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2014 warns that children face serious and possibly fatal side effects from the consumption of energy drinks.

Between 2010 and 2013, poison control centers received more than 5,000 reports of people who got sick from energy drinks, NBC News reports, with symptoms including seizures, irregular heart rhythm or dangerously high blood pressure. Children too young to know what they are drinking consume energy drinks they find in the family refrigerator, according to Dr. Steven Lipshultz, pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, co-author of the study.

Red Bull, Monster Energy, 5-Hour Energy and other such energy drinks say they boost energy and concentration. The drinks contain caffeine, along with vitamins, herbal supplements, sugars, and creatine. The amount of caffeine varies, with some drinks containing about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee – around 100 mg. – but others have much as 500 mg. Studies have suggested that energy drinks do not improve energy or concentration any better than a cup of coffee does, according to NBC News. And large amounts of caffeine can cause adverse effects serious enough to require medical attention, according to a federal report.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) said that emergency room visits for symptoms related to energy drink consumption doubled between 2007 and 2011, reaching 20,783 in 2011, according to The New York Times. Dr. Lipshultz and his colleagues noticed this increase and began to track data from poison control centers around the world. In 2011 they reported that illnesses associated with energy-drink consumption had skyrocketed. When they examined reports from poison control centers between October 2010 and September 2013, they found 5,156 cases had been reported to the centers. About 40 percent of the cases involved children younger than age 6, according to NBC News.

An American Academy of Pediatrics report in 2011 strongly discouraged energy drink consumption by children of any age. The academy, in a joint study with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommended that only caffeine-free beverages be available in schools, according to the Times.

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