NEW YORK — 2/01/11- Energy drinks are all the rage these days; they can be found at almost every convenience store and their ultra colorful logos are inescapable at most sports events- from X Games to Nascar.
But do they measure up to the billion-dollar hype?
The energy drink industry is a 5 billion dollar market. Red Bull started the madness in 1994 causing the market to explode. Soft drink manufacturers followed suit with new energy drinks including Monster, Rockstar, Sobe and Adrenaline Rush. There are over 500 energy drinks on the market today, mostly marketed to a younger demographic.
Don’t let energy drinks take your children for a ride
Are these industrial age cocktails, made with caffeine, sugars (sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltodextrin), artificial sweeteners, herbs, isolated amino acids, vitamins (some with more than 4,000 % of the daily requirement for Vitamin B12) and marketed as ‘performance enhancing functional foods,’ nothing more than glorified junk food that come with health serious consequences?
Let’s find out…
Do energy drinks actually give you energy?
Well, of course they do; they are amped up with caffeine, sugars, artificial sweeteners and herbs that act as metabolic stimulants. Since most of these products do not list the amount of caffeine, it is hard to determine exactly how much caffeine you are getting.
Energy drinks range in various sizes from less than 1 ounce to 24 ounces. The spectrum of caffeine dosing in energy drinks varies greatly from 57 mg per drink (Hansen’s) all the way up to 1800 mg (in a 4 ounce can of 5150).
Keep in mind; an average cup of coffee contains 50 –100 mg caffeine. Also noteworthy, caffeine pills, like NoDoz, which are marketed to adults and are regulated by the FDA, have around 100 mg of caffeine per pill. The FDA states that NoDoz is not recommended for children under 12 or pregnant women nor is it safe to use while driving.
Yet, the FDA, whose main job is to protect the health of the consumer, is silent on regulating these potent caffeine cocktails that are being marketed to the most vulnerable of our population: teens and children as young as 4 yrs old.
Mommy’s Little Monster
Caffeine, a stimulant, is the world’s most popular psychoactive substance. Although we know of some health and fat loss benefits of coffee/caffeine consumption, we also know there are negative effects on metabolism. We also do not know about long-term health consequences of caffeine and children, as there are few, if any, studies on the topic.
Why is this a problem? Children are the fastest growing population of caffeine users with 75% of American children between the ages 5 – 12 consuming caffeine daily. The amount they are consuming is almost twice the amount recommended by Canadian guidelines (America has no guidelines) and exceeding the amount that creates physiological effects in adults.
The more caffeine kids drink, the less they sleep.
Children and adolescents are already not getting as much sleep as they used to or as much as they need to be healthy, alert and well balanced. Students are getting less than 8 hours of sleep on average, which is the recommended amount of sleep for this population.
Also, caffeine is being used to counteract the effects of poor sleep creating a vicious cycle of caffeine use disrupting sleep, leading to fatigue and subsequent caffeine use to counteract the fatigue.
When kids don’t get enough sleep, the consequences can be seen in poor academic performance, health and emotional stability: Moodiness, depression, ADHD, binge eating, weight gain, obesity and possibly permanent damage to the child’s brain.
Caffeine intoxication is a well-recognized syndrome characterized by nervousness, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, gastrointestinal upset & tremors.
Caffeine also decreases appetite, which many people falsely believe is a benefit, it also decreases insulin sensitivity leading to a whole host of metabolic problems.
Energy drink over-use is strongly linked with increased risks of engaging in episodes of heavy drinking and developing alcohol dependence. Results of this landmark study to be published in the February 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
Caffeine and Misdiagnosis
In ‘Addiction – the Hidden Epidemic,’ Pam Killeen explains how ‘children who consume caffeine can be misdiagnosed as having ADHD. Even children who consume only 28 milligrams a day (less than an average soda) can feel symptoms from caffeine.
Some researchers believe that caffeinated beverages may serve as “gateway” products, putting children at risk for abusing stronger stimulants, such as the prescription drugs amphetamine and methylphenidate (Ritalin).”
Caffeine and Sugar
Dr. Joseph M. Serra Grabulosa, Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology University of Barcelona says ‘there is a synergistic effect between two substances, in which each one boosts the effect of the other. The combination of the two substances improves cognitive performance in terms of sustained attention and working memory
Childhood and adolescence may be a critical period for the establishment of eating patterns and taste preferences. If caffeine enhances preferences for sweet foods and beverages, this may contribute to excess energy intake and increased risk for overweight and obesity in adulthood. 1
Children and adolescents may be particularly vulnerable to these effects, as their brains are still undergoing significant development; in particular areas of the brain involved in executive function, impulsivity control, and planning.
While no one has examined the effects of caffeine consumption on adolescent brain development, the possibility exists that development can be altered during this time period. Studies examining neurological function in adolescents have revealed that a large amount of brain development is still occurring at this time point and, in some brain regions, development occurs beyond the teenage years (Giedd, 1999; Sowell et al., 1999).
The areas of the brain that are still developing during adolescence include the orbito frontal cortex and the temporal lobe (Giedd, 1999; Sowell et al., 1999). These are areas that contain adenosine receptors and therefore have the potential to be modified by caffeine (Svenningsson et al., 1997).
In addition, because caffeine acts on brain regions that mediate reward and addiction, it is possible that caffeine consumption could influence the reinforcing properties of certain types of foods and beverages that are paired with caffeine.
Energy drink consumption can lead to several adverse consequences, particularly in children and adolescents, due to their high caffeine content. First, children and adolescents may be more susceptible to caffeine intoxication, which, as mentioned above, results in a host of physiological and psychological effects and can, in some cases, lead to death.
There are real reasons why France banned Red Bull several years back and why the medical establishment and health & nutrition practitioners are speaking out exposing the truth about these unnecessary junk foods disguised as energy or sports drinks.
I have been working with parents and children for over ten years as a fitness & nutrition coach; from what I see in my experience, it all boils down to priorities. The main reason children are reaching out for energy drinks is because they are exhausted and have disordered eating habits. They are not sleeping enough, can often be overscheduled (which can include too many sports without sufficient recovery) all of which leads to less time for meals, meaning they skip important meals, don’t get sufficient nutrients and overeat nutrient-poor processed foods (made of vegetable oils/trans fats, synthetic ingredients, flour products, sugar).
Compounding these issues is the fact that many parents live vicariously through their children; they can often be aggressive, pushing their children too hard to become a champion at the expense of the health, mood and energy levels of the child. Many parents and coaches also do not appreciate the critical importance of rest and recovery.
It is a vicious cycle that can be stopped and need not be started when parents and children know a few facts.
When humans, especially young humans, eat nutrient-dense whole foods, get quality sleep and have healthy relationships with training and sports performance - they naturally have an abundance of energy, a fulfilling and healthy lifestyle characterized by a balanced psychology, resilience to stress and adaptability.
When priorities are shifted, children are less fatigued and much less vulnerable to unethical marketing of corporate junk food manufacturers.
Energy Solutions – Get to bed on time; to be fully rested, humans need at least 8-9 hours of uninterrupted quality sleep in a dark room. People need to eat real food, typically 4 times per day. To stay hydrated, one simply needs to drink plenty of water and eat a mineral rich diet, which includes saturated fat and protein from grass fed, organic animals foods and produce.
Optimal growth, strength, sports performance and energy management are built on a healthy work/rest ratio and quality foods. For children (and adults) that are approaching burn out, coconut oil, egg yolks and pasture raised red meats support recovery from training, optimal hormonal balance and energy levels.
Simply shifting our priorities can provide the magical benefits we are seeking in products. When it comes to energy drinks, don’t believe the hype.
Caffeine use in children: What we know, what we have left to learn, and why we should worry. Jennifer L. Temple University at Buffalo, Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699625/
Energy Drinks Are Fueling Concerns, Kim Severson
Energy Drink Consumption Is Strongly Linked With Risks of Heavy Drinking and Alcohol Dependence
Stress Contributes To Range Of Chronic Diseases
Caffeine Can Decrease Insulin Sensitivity in Humanshttp://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/25/2/364.full
The Truth About Adrenal Fatigue, Dr Bryan Walsh http://www.tnation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_nutrition/the_truth_about_adrenal_fatigue
What Children’s Cortisol Levels Tell Us About Quality in Child Care Centers.Sims, M., Guilfoyle, A., & Parry, T.
A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of Energy Drinks on Exercise Performance, Dexterity, Reaction Time and Vital Signs Before and After Exercise. Annals of Emergency Medicine
Student’s Research: Energy Drinks are Bunk. 12-Year-Old’s Study Accepted by Prestigious Medical Journal; Shows Sprite Has Same Effect as Monster Energy Drink
The Effects of Energy Drinks on Cognitive Performance
Addiction: The Hidden Epidemic - Pam Killeen http://www.pamkilleen.com
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers - Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D
Know What’s In Your Energy Drink? Allison Van Dusen,
Snooze or Lose, Po Bronson http://nymag.com
Caffeine Content of Most Drinks http://www.energyfiend.com/the-caffeine-database
Check out previous articles by Antonio:
Antonio Valladares, CHEK, CPT, LMT is a New York City based Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach and Exercise Specialist. He has specialized in women’s health & wellness since 1994. Valladares, an internationally recognized expert in fitness and fat loss, is co-author of the Ultimate Healthy Eating Guide and Fat loss Recipe Book: the Healthy Urban Kitchen. His blog provides real world solutions for nutrition, organic and grass fed food, gluten free recipes and natural health solutions.
Adam is a Reiki Master, certified Health and Lifestyle counselor, Intrinsic Coach, Licensed Massage Therapist, 20 year practicing bramana initiated Bhakti Yogi, Spiritual advisor, visionary, jock and veteran of the “hardcore punk scene” all rolled into one. His clients have included celebrities, politicians, professional atheletes, and professional sport team owners.
Click here for Adam’s past article archive.
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