Whether they’re looking for a boost in studying, athletics, partying or just to get through the day, teens consume plenty of energy drinks. About 30 to 50 percent of adolescents and young adults consume energy drinks, according to self-reported data cited by March 2011 “Pediatrics” article by Sara M. Seifert and colleagues. That same article concluded that energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit, although some teens do report positive short-term effects of energy drinks.
Energy drinks gives teens energy through the stimulant caffeine and the herbal ingredients guarana, which is a plant extract that contains caffeine. For some teens, these ingredients may provide enhanced concentration and mental alertness immediately after consuming the beverage. Manufactures of energy drinks say guarana increases energy, enhances physical performance, and promotes weight loss, but little research exists on guarana to verify these claims.
Energy drinks can cause a number of unwanted side effects for teens. The caffeine in energy drinks can leade to jitters, nervousness, upset stomach, headaches, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping and frequent urination. Any caffeinated beverage can cause these side effects. The difference with energy drinks is that some contain excessive amounts of caffeine. Some energy drinks contain more than 500 mg of caffeine, which is a toxic amount that is equivalent to 14 cans of common caffeinated soft drinks, cites a June 2011 “Pediatrics” article by the Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness.
The short-term effects of energy drinks can vary from one drink to another because of the different ingredients and doses of caffeine. While some energy drinks have the same amount of caffeine in one serving as a standard cup of coffee, many teens are drinking several servings of the energy drinks in one sitting so they are still getting too much caffeine for their growing bodies. Additionally, many of the ingredients are unregulated. The ingredients can interact with certain medications and cause serious side effects for teens with diabetes, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, seizures, cardiac abnormalities, mood disorders and behavioral disorders. Some teens also add alcohol to the energy drinks.
In addition to the short-term effects of having an energy drink, consider the long-term effects of regularly drinking energy drinks. The large amounts of sugar in the drinks can cause dental decay and lead to weight gain. With weight gain comes an increased risk of weight-related conditions, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Because caffeine interferes with intestinal calcium absorption, energy drinks may cause problems for strong bone development.
- "Pediatrics"; Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults; Sara M. Seifert, et al.; March 2011
- "Pediatrics"; Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate?; Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness; June 2011
- KidsHealth: Power Drinks -- Should Your Child Drink Them?