Energy Drinks Can be Deadly for Children

New research shows that children face serious and possibly deadly side effects from the consumption of energy drinks.

Between 2010 and 2013, poison control centers received more than 5,000 reports of people who got sick from energy drinks, NBC News reports. Many of the cases involved serious side effects, such as seizures, irregular heart rhythmor dangerously high blood pressure, the researchers told a meeting of the American Heart Association. Children under age 6 often consumed energy drinks without knowing what they were drinking. Dr. Steven Lipshultz, co-author of the study and head of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, said, “They . . . found it in the refrigerator, or left by a parent or an older sibling.”Energy drinks typically contain a lot of sugar and at least as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, but often the drinks also contain other ingredients claimed to have energy-boosting effects. These include taurine and l-carnitine (naturally occurring amino acids) and ginseng. But studies suggest that energy drinks – even with extra ingredients – don’t improve energy or attention any better than coffee does, according to NBC News.

In 2007, Lipshultz noticed the number of children and adults who turned up in emergency rooms after consuming energy drinks. He and his colleagues started to track data from poison control centers worldwide. In 2011 they reported that illnesses associated with energy-drink consumption had skyrocketed.  There were heart problems, liver damage, and even deaths. A government study found that emergency-room visits related to energy-drink consumption grew exponentially between 2005 and 2011. To see whether this trend had continued, Lipshultz and colleagues analyzed reports from poison control centers between October 2010 and September 2013. They found 5,156 cases had been reported to the centers, with about 40 percent of the cases involving children younger than age 6. Lipshultz said it is not possible to “dissect out what is the effect of ginseng, what is the effect of taurine, what is the effect of guarana, what is the effect of caffeine,” according to NBC News.

Children and adults with such risk factors as seizure disorder, arrhythmia, or a predisposition to high blood pressure, should not consume energy drinks, Lipshultz said.


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