The increasingly popular, highly caffeinated drinks are risky for children, especially if they have heart abnormalities, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other health or emotional problems.
Surveys suggest that 30 to 50 percent of U.S. teenagers and young people consume energy drinks, despite warnings about their safety. Many users mix the energy drinks with alcohol, further heightening the potential for ill effects, say the researchers.
But even without the addition of alcohol, the beverages carry some measure of risk...
An 8-ounce energy drink may contain dozens or hundreds of milligrams of caffeine, compared to 100 milligrams of caffeine in a generic cup of coffee. An 8-ounce serving of Red Bull contains 77 milligrams of caffeine, compared to 28 milligrams in an equal amount of Mountain Dew, the report noted.
Energy-drink manufacturers often add other ingredients, such as sugar and high or unstudied herbal ingredients. Some ingredients may even interfere with medications....
Besides young people with ADHD and heart problems, the drinks can be hazardous to children who suffer from diabetes, seizures and psychological problems.
In countries that track adverse events from energy drinks, cases of agitation, liver damage, kidney failure, psychosis and a heart attack in a 23-year-old have been reported. Nearly half of the 5,448 caffeine overdoses reported in the United States in 2007 occurred in people under the age of 19, the study noted although these were not directly tied to energy drinks.
Caffeine can affect young people more than adults, because they may not have developed tolerance for it and their bodies may be smaller.