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Kids and Caffeine: Energy Drinks
CEA-FCS
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 • Posted April 18, 2012

I know I’ve touched on the subject of sports beverages before (not recommended for kids OR adults unless you are exercising over an hour- WATER is your best bet! Try squeezing a little lemon or lime in it if your kids don’t like plain water- or try another fruit or veggie to give it a flavor boost.) Lately I’ve been seeing kids with energy drinks, and hearing them talk about if they are allowed to drink them or not. According to kidshealth.org, energy drinks are becoming increasingly popular with middle- and high-school students who are looking for a competitive edge. And while some energy drinks are clearly labeled as unsuitable for children, others are specifically marketed to kids as young as 4, promising boosts in energy and nutrition as well as enhanced athletic performance.

Most energy drinks deliver a stiff dose of sugar and caffeine — sometimes as much caffeine as in 1 to 3 cups of coffee. Too much sugar can put kids in the fast lane to the dentist’s office and also contribute to weight gain. Excessive caffeine comes with its own set of problems — especially in younger kids, it can negatively affect attention and concentration.

Few studies have examined the effect of caffeine on children, but consider how you feel when you’ve had too much. Caffeine is indeed a stimulant — though a widely used and accepted one — and because kids are smaller than adults and its effects on them will be more pronounced.

As in adults, too much caffeine can cause:

* jitteriness and nervousness

* upset stomach

* headaches

* difficulty concentrating

* difficulty sleeping

* frequent urination

Large amounts of caffeine can have even more serious side effects (including fast or irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, hallucinations, and seizures), especially for kids with certain medical conditions or who take medications or supplements.

Many of these drinks also contain additional ingredients whose safety or effectiveness has never been tested in children — including herbal supplements, guarana (a source of caffeine), and taurine (an amino acid thought to enhance performance and caffeine’s effects).

The bottom line is this: Energy drinks pose a real health risk for kids and teens and should be avoided. Kids who participate in sports should learn that they can improve their game through hard work and practice — values that will serve them well both on and off the field.

Encouraging kids to believe that they need something “extra” to perform at their best is a slippery slope that may lead to the use of other performance-enhancing substances.

Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be critical when reading labels, and talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. And teach your kids not to be so quick to believe the hype when it comes to sports and energy drinks.

For athletes and non-athletes alike, nothing beats a well-balanced diet. Most kids who eat well, stay hydrated, and get enough physical activity and rest will have plenty of energy — naturally.

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