Health

Energy drinks have no place in kids' diets: MDs

Children need to learn the difference between energy drinks with potentially harmful caffeine levels and sports drinks, pediatricians say.

Children need to learn the difference between energy drinks with potentially harmful caffeine levels and sports drinks, pediatricians say.

Most kids don't need energy drinks that are heavily marketed to them, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a report published in Monday's issue of the journal Pediatrics. 
Pediatricians suggest highlighting the difference between sports drinks and energy drinks with patients and their parents. (Albert Gea/Reuters)

"There is a lot of confusion about sports drinks and energy drinks, and adolescents are often unaware of the differences in these products," said Dr. Marcie Beth Schneider, a co-author of the report.

"Some kids are drinking energy drinks — containing large amounts of caffeine — when their goal is simply to rehydrate after exercise. This means they are ingesting large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, which can be dangerous."

Sports drinks, which contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes and flavouring, are meant to replace water and electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise.

Sports drinks can help young athletes sweating through prolonged, vigorous physical activity such as tournaments played in hot, humid weather with little recovery time between competitions.

But for most children doing routine physical activity, drinking plain water should be the first choice before, during and after most exercise, the authors said.

Sports drinks contain extra calories that contribute to obesity and tooth decay.

Energy drinks can also be harmful to health since they contain stimulants such as caffeine that have been linked to cardiovascular and neurological effects in children.

"Rigorous review and analysis of the literature reveal that caffeine and other stimulant substances contained in energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents," the paper's authors said.

The authors also recommended that pediatricians highlight the difference between sports drinks and energy drinks with patients and their parents, and talk about the potential health risks.

In a statement responding to the clinical report, the American Beverage Association agreed that sports drinks and energy drinks are very different beverage choices that should be assessed and marketed differently.

"Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages that are specifically marketed with an energizing effect and a unique combination of characterizing ingredients. While their ingredients and labelling comply fully with all regulatory requirements, they are not intended for young consumers," the beverage trade group said.

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