Posted: Feb 18, 2013 11:00 AM
Need a quick boost of mid-afternoon energy? Many teens – and adults – have taken to grabbing an energy drink when they are dragging their feet. Are they safe for teens?

Energy drinks are available everywhere these days, and teens can't seem to get enough of them. Marketing campaigns target teens and young adults with bright, edgy packaging and sponsorship of high-energy sporting events like snowboarding and motocross racing. What's the big deal about a bit of extra caffeine?

How much is too much?energy drink

Most teens drink soda or coffee — maybe even several over the course of a day. Caffeine has become an accepted way for many of us to perk up and grab some quick energy. Opinions vary on how much caffeine is safe for teens, but 250 milligrams is considered a moderate daily amount for adults. Ingredients in energy drinks may vary, but they generally contain caffeine plus other ingredients including guarana, which contains chemicals similar to caffeine and is also a stimulant.

Part of the concern with teens and excessive amounts of caffeine is that the beverages they are consuming provide little nutrition for their growing minds and bodies, and are often substituted in place of healthier options. Caffeine has an effect on various organ systems, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure. It can also cause dehydration, nervousness and an increase in anxiety in people with anxiety disorders.

ER visits are up

According to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), between 2007 and 2011, emergency room visits involving the consumption of energy drinks doubled — from about 10,000 cases to more than 20,000 nationwide. The majority of these cases involved teens or young adults. While this is a small percentage of the total emergency room visits, the increase is cause for concern. Many of these emergency patients were combining energy drinks with alcohol or prescription drugs like Ritalin or Adderall, which are also stimulants.

Company fires back

Energy drinks pose potential health risks because of the stimulants they contain, and should never be consumed by children or adolescents. -AAP

Monster Beverage Corporation released a statement against the SAMHSA report, stating that their claims do not support the conclusion that energy drinks are unsafe. Their statement reads in part, "Any causal connection between energy drink consumption and emergency room visits is further substantially weakened by the existence of other factors more likely to have been responsible for the patients' medical issues, such as the use of pharmaceuticals, alcohol or illegal drugs."

Should you allow your teen to drink energy drinks? In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report stating that "energy drinks pose potential health risks because of the stimulants they contain, and should never be consumed by children or adolescents." Caffeine consumed in moderation may be fine for some teens, but excess consumption is not the best choice.

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