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 youth, this practice has replaced breakfast or even a morning cup of coffee.
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 energy drinks could be far more detrimental than helpful.
We’ve known for a while the volume of caffeine in many 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.
No official position, that is, until this week. Back in April, a teenaged boy in the U.S. collapsed after downing an energy drink, 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 against people aged zero to 18 consuming energy drinks.
The society’s announcement this week is another step in the right direction for kids’ health — schools in many Atlantic Canada school jurisdictions 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 strong position this week should only be the start of something more concrete when it comes to youth and energy drinks.
Ontario pediatrician Dr. Catherine Pound, a co-author of the society’s statement, mused about restricting 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 in the past asking for identification when selling energy drinks to customers who are under the age of 18, while 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 youth 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. We must find the energy to keep a potentially harmful product from the hands of our kids.