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Energy Drinks and Children Create Dangerous Cocktail

Energy DrinksEnergy drinks containing high levels of caffeine have gained in popularly over recent years. But children and energy drinks should not mix. Although marketed towards teens and young adults, the beverages account for 40 percent of calls related to children under the age of 6 consuming caffeinated energy drinks to poison control centers in the United States, says a new study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014.

Senior author Steven Lipshultz, M.D., professor and chair of pediatrics at Wayne State University and pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, expresses concern about the disproportionate number of children negatively affected by energy drinks.

Notes Dr. Lipshultz, “About half of the calls to the national poison control data system for caffeinated energy drinks related to unintentional exposure for children less than 6.”

The most serious cases of children consuming energy drinks involved seizures and heart problems.

For the study, the researchers analyzed records of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System between October 2010 and September 2013. The records contain information calls about energy exposures from the public and healthcare providers to 55 poison control centers in the United States. The researchers defined exposure as “actual or suspected contact with any substance which has been ingested, inhaled, absorbed, applied to, or injected into the body, regardless of toxicity or clinical manifestation.”

According to the study, unintentional exposure by children under the age of 6 accounted for 40 percent of the total 5,156 reported cases of energy drink exposure.

Additionally, among the total reports, cardiovascular effects including abnormal heart rhythm and conduction abnormalities accounted for 57 percent of cases and neurologic effects including seizures accounted for 55 percent.

Another recent study on the beverages also concluded that even healthy adults who consume energy drinks have “significantly increased” heart rates an hour after consumption.

One of the main ingredients in most energy drinks is caffeine, both pharmaceutical-grade caffeine and additional caffeine from natural sources. Caffeine can cause increases in heart rate and blood pressure as well as other symptoms that affect the nervous, digestive, and cardiovascular systems. Some energy drinks contain as much as 400 milligrams per bottle or can. In comparison, a typical cup of coffee contains approximately 150 milligrams of caffeine.

Caffeine poisoning can occur at levels higher than 400 milligrams in adults; above 100 milligrams in adolescents; and at 2.5 milligrams per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight in children under the age of 12.

Warns Dr. Lipshultz, “Energy drinks have no place in pediatric diets. And anyone with underlying cardiac, neurologic or other significant medical conditions should check with their healthcare provider to make sure it’s safe to consume energy drinks.”

Additionally, energy drinks often contain other ingredients in addition to caffeine such as taurine, most of which have not been tested for safety in children and have never been tested in combination with other drugs such as caffeine.

Because the study included data only from calls to poison control centers, the researchers believe that the numbers reflect only the tip of the iceberg of the problem with children consuming energy drinks.

Parents and other caregivers should never allow children to drink energy drinks and should keep energy drinks away from children to prevent accidental exposure.

References

‘Disproportionate’ poison calls regarding young kids and energy drinks: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285489.php
Poison control data show energy drinks and young kids don’t mix: http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=147004&CultureCode=en

Image Credits

Energy Drinks: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/128678

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