JP Stowe, ATC

    The Hidden Dangers of Energy Drinks

    6/19/2018 12:00:00 AM

    Healthy Living – June 19, 2018
    JP Stowe, ATC, CSCS – Eastern Maine Medical Center
    JP.JPG 
    Energy drinks have been very popular since the late 1990’s with the emergence of Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar. These drinks claim to provide “lasting energy”, improve athletic performance, and enhance mental sharpness, but these caffeine and sugar-laden drinks can be very dangerous. Healthcare professionals have been publicizing the risk and what the label actually hides for many years. Most energy drinks lack label transparency and can be classified as a “dietary supplement” to take certain liberties when it comes to what it puts on the label. Even though an energy drink says it only contains 50-100 mg of caffeine, it could be five to ten times that much due to other ingredients like guarana, taurine, or ginseng.

    The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recently released a statement in February about new recommendations and warnings for energy drinks. Here’s how you can protect yourself and your children, especially when mixing energy drinks and activity.

    Protect children at risk: Children and adolescents are at high risk due to body size and risk of heavy consumption. Reinforce that these drinks are not for them.

    Stop marketing to at-risk populations, especially children: Target marketing to sporting events and other events involving children should not be permitted. This population can be very vulnerable and highly influenced.

    Do not use energy drinks before/during/after strenuous exercise: A study in 2010 by cardiologist Dr. John Higgins concluded that energy drinks have an adverse effect on the cardiovascular system and can cause neurological, gastrointestinal, renal, and endocrine system problems. After consuming energy drinks, the arteries are unable to open properly for blood to flow. This flow imbalance plus strenuous exercise and sports is the perfect recipe for serious cardiac events like ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation and sudden cardiac arrest. Yes, especially in children.

    Increase education and research: Efforts should be made to educate children on the large differences between soda, coffee, sports drinks, and energy drinks. The growing number of cardiac events involving energy drinks needs more research as well as the ingredients in each can.

    Some countries have come down hard on the sale of energy drinks to children. In 2016, Latvia started prohibiting the sale of energy drinks to anyone under the age of 18. The U.K. did the same for anyone under 16 earlier in 2018. Some schools in the U.S. have even prohibited students from competing in athletics if they are seen drinking an energy drink before a game or practice. There are, however, no restrictions on the sale of energy drinks to children in the U.S.

    Source: Higgins, J., Babu, K., Deuster, P. and Shearer, J. (2018). Energy drinks: A contemporary issues paper. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 17(2), pp.65-72.
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