Energy drinks – increased pep or misstep?

Energy drinks are marketed as powerful elixirs that do it all. They promise more energy, improved performance, better concentration and increased endurance. Teens on the quest to overcome the challenges of young adulthood may be tempted by these sweet pick-me-ups. But are they safe? And what effects can they have on young bodies?

Energy drink basics

It’s important to note that the main ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine. They also may contain extract from the guarana plant (which is similar to caffeine), the amino acid taurine and carbohydrates in the form of sugar and vitamins.

Concerns with caffeine 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teens not use energy drinks because of the high amounts of caffeine. Caffeine can cause problems in children and teens, including: higher blood pressure, sleep problems, and worsening of pre-existing conditions. For example, the caffeine in energy drinks can make abnormal heartbeats more likely in those with heart problems or increase blood sugar in those with diabetes.

In addition, a label may not say how much caffeine is in the other ingredients, so it can be hard to know actually how much caffeine is in the drink. A single energy drink can contain as much as 500 mg of caffeine which is more than five times the standard cup of coffee. You would have to drink 14 cans of cola to get the same amount of caffeine.

Other concerns 

Parents should also take note of additional hazards of energy drinks from foreign ingredients such as kola nut or guarana; there has been little research on how these ingredients may affect the body.

Limited regulation. Energy drinks may be classified as dietary supplements, which are not as strictly regulated as food. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the amount of caffeine in sodas, but not in energy drinks.

Sugar. Energy drinks usually contain sugars, adding calories. This could lead to weight gain. The sugars can also lead to dental problems.

Withdrawal. When your body gets used to a lot of caffeine and then you stop using it, you can get symptoms including headaches, feeling tired, having trouble concentrating and feeling grumpy.

Sleep. The caffeine in energy drinks may make it harder to sleep. Some people may feel they need less sleep, due to the stimulation they get from the caffeine. This can lead to sleep deprivation.

The bottom line:

If you are craving a bit more oomph, energy drinks are not the answer. The best way for improving energy is through eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep.

Courtesy of PeaceHealth Medical Group

  1. Energy drinks have been enjoyed safely by millions of people around the world for more than 25 years, and in the United States for more than 15 years. Moreover, the safety of energy drinks has been established by scientific research as well as regulatory agencies around the globe. It’s also important to note that most mainstream energy drinks contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee.

    America’s leading energy drink manufacturers voluntarily go far beyond all federal requirements when it comes to responsible labeling and marketing practices, including displaying total caffeine content – from all sources – on their packages along with advisory statements indicating that the product is not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women and persons sensitive to caffeine. Learn more here:


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