Experts Warn About Dangers of Energy Drinks in Children

August 28, 2013 — The journal of American Poison Control Centers, Clinical Toxicology, has published a study of about 1,500 calls regarding energy drink side effects. About 51% of calls for energy drink toxicity involved unintentional exposures in children under 6 years old.

Case reports of major side effects identified in the study include:

  • Seizures
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Non-ventricular dysrhythmia
  • Ventricular dysrhythmia
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)

Energy drinks, shots, sprays, gums, and other products are under increased scrutiny as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigates reports of deaths linked to the highly-caffeinated beverages. Although most sodas are limited to no more than 70-mg of caffeine per 12-ounce can, the FDA does not control caffeine levels in energy drinks, shots, sprays, and many other products sold as “dietary supplements.

The FDA is particularly concerned about adverse effects in children. According to Michael R. Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods, in Defining Boundaries for Caffeine in Today’s Marketplace:

“By breaking far outside the traditional boundaries surrounding caffeine as a component of the food supply, these products pose challenging public health and regulatory questions. They stem from the fact that these products are being marketed explicitly for their stimulant properties, are prone to being consumed under a range of new and different conditions, and are providing caffeine in forms that are attractive and accessible to children and adolescents.

Many organizations have taken steps to restrict or ban marketing of energy drinks to children under 18. In 2011, the American Beverage Association voluntarily set guideline that restricts marketing of the products to children and bans selling or sampling the products in schools. Although energy drink companies vigorously deny marketing their products to children, about 20-30% of adolescents report consuming them regularly.

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