Dangers of Kids' Energy Drink Intake Deserve Education

Energy drink overconsumption has dangerous cardiac and neurologic consequences in adolescents.

Energy drink overconsumption has dangerous cardiac and neurologic consequences in adolescents, warranting awareness efforts.

In contrast with other soft and sports drinks, energy drinks have high caffeine content and are promoted to relieve fatigue and improve physical and cognitive performance. In light of the beverages’ increasing popularity among young adults, researchers recently reviewed current literature on intake among those aged 10 to 19 years and considered its cardiovascular implications.

Reviewing the evidence, the authors estimated 30% to 50% of this age group currently consumes energy drinks, with about one-third of 12- to 19-year-old adolescents drinking them regularly.

“We were surprised by the very high consumption of energy drinks among adolescents. As is true for almost everything, the overconsumption of a specific substance is not good for the health,” study co-author Helios Pareja-Galeano, PhD, explained to Pharmacy Times in an email. “In this aspect, caffeine mixed with other potentially synergic substances, such as taurine and ginseng, can produce important alterations not only at the cardiac level, but also at the neurologic level.”

In fact, the researchers detailed a number of potentially serious health consequences from energy drink overconsumption, including atrial fibrillation, ventricular arrhythmias, increased anxiety or depression, shortness of breath, uncontrollable phobias and fears, and sudden cardiac death.

“The main problem of this danger is that people—in this case, adolescents—can get very high amounts of caffeine/taurine/ginseng from supermarkets, gas stations, and even drugstores,” Dr. Pareja-Galeano told Pharmacy Times. “Drugstores sell caffeine and other stimulants that are good in some cases when consumed moderately. But, in our opinion, efforts should be directed to a correct label and awareness/education.”

In the study, which was published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, the researchers said consuming a single 250-mL can of an energy drink per day is safe for most healthy adolescents, though intake before or during sports should be avoided. Those with underlying conditions should consult their health care provider before consuming an energy drink, the authors added.

“To date, caffeine consumption is normally accepted in society and is considered free of disadvantages when consumed moderately,” Dr. Pareja-Galeano told Pharmacy Times. “However, the isolated and combined effects of caffeine with taurine and ginseng should be studied in healthy people, and also in persons with cardiac and neurological disorders.”