Skip the en­ergy drinks for kids

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial -

Your pre-teen or teenaged son or daugh­ter feels groggy be­fore school, so they grab an en­ergy drink from the fridge or the corner store and down it on the way to class.

For many young peo­ple, this prac­tice has re­placed breakfast.

The prom­ise of these bev­er­ages is the pick-meup and boost in men­tal alert­ness, per­haps even “sports en­ergy” for ath­letes -- all in one con­ve­nient can.

The re­al­ity, though, is that en­ergy drinks could be far more detri­men­tal than help­ful.

We’ve known for a while that the vol­ume of caf­feine in en­ergy drinks can ex­ceed the max­i­mum daily in­take for chil­dren, along with plenty of sugar. Even so, the Cana­dian Pae­di­atric So­ci­ety had stopped short of tak­ing a po­si­tion on sports and en­ergy drinks other than to sug­gest non-ath­letes avoid them.

That is, un­til this week.

Back in April, a teenaged boy in the U.S. col­lapsed af­ter down­ing an en­ergy drink, a pop and a café latte within two hours. The teen likely died from a caf­feine-in­duced heart ar­rhyth­mia, de­spite hav­ing no pre-ex­ist­ing heart con­di­tion.

This and other cases prompted the pe­di­atric so­ci­ety in this coun­try to rec­om­mend that peo­ple aged zero to 18 avoid en­ergy drinks.

The so­ci­ety’s an­nounce­ment this week is an­other step in the right di­rec­tion for kids’ health -- some schools in At­lantic Canada have al­ready banned the con­sump­tion of these bev­er­ages, so this lat­est warn­ing is an­other shot across the bow for the Mon­sters, Red Bulls and Ga­torades of the world.

Lest you feel too badly for these poor, be­lea­guered en­ergy drink mak­ers, con­sider all the slick mar­ket­ing, cool com­mer­cials, celebrity en­dorse­ments and pro­fes­sional sport spon­sor­ships that come along with them, much of it tar­geted to the younger de­mo­graphic.

That’s why the pe­di­atric so­ci­ety’s po­si­tion should only be the start of some­thing more con­crete.

On­tario pe­di­a­tri­cian Dr. Cather­ine Pound, a co-author of the so­ci­ety’s state­ment, mused about re­strict­ing the use of en­ergy drinks to adults, sim­i­lar to al­co­hol or cig­a­rettes.

It’s a sug­ges­tion worth con­sid­er­ing.

Some store own­ers in this re­gion have dis­cussed ask­ing for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion when sell­ing en­ergy drinks to cus­tomers who are un­der the age of 18, and some ac­tu­ally went as far as to im­ple­ment the prac­tice.

This, com­bined with mak­ing warn­ing la­bels on en­ergy drink cans manda­tory, would go a long way to curbing their use among youth.

Af­ter all, if the Cana­dian Pae­di­atric So­ci­ety is telling us chil­dren shouldn’t be drink­ing these prod­ucts, why not take the de­ci­sion out of the hands of the pop­u­la­tion they tar­get?

Let’s take these warn­ings one step fur­ther and ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of mit­i­gat­ing the po­ten­tially harm­ful ef­fects from ever hap­pen­ing in the first place.

The prom­ise of these drinks and the money be­hind the cam­paigns will make them dif­fi­cult to re­sist. Still, we must find the en­ergy to keep a po­ten­tially harm­ful prod­uct out of the hands of our kid.

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