According to a new study in the March issue of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) journal Pediatrics, energy drinks may pose a risk for serious adverse health effects in some children, especially those with diabetes, seizures, cardiac abnormalities or mood and behavior disorders.

“Energy drinks are frequently marketed to young athletes, and the high levels of caffeine may affect some children adversely,” reports Barbara Mintz, MS, RD, Assistant Vice President for Wellness at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “They also offer no nutritional value at a time when children’s bodies need healthy drinks and fluid replacement during sports activities.”

The study, "Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents and Young Adults," determined that energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit to children, and the ingredients, combined with reports of toxicity, may put some children at risk for adverse health events. Energy drinks contain high levels of stimulants such as caffeine, and safe consumption levels have not been established for adolescents.

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Youth account for half of the energy drink market, and according to surveys, 30 percent to 50 percent of adolescents report consuming energy drinks.

“The average child athlete can get the necessary hydration by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after exercise,” says Ms. Mintz. “During games and competitive events, drinks should be available at all times and regular water breaks should be scheduled.”

Keeping Kids Hydrated

What you can do to keep kids hydrated, some suggestions from The Department of Wellness and Nutrition at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center:

  • During physical activity (and especially on hot days), make sure that kids drink frequently. Every 20 minutes, give younger kids 5 ounces of cold water (the size of a small juice box), and give teens 9 ounces.
  • Offer cold water– it’s absorbed faster by the body!
  • Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks– these are absorbed more slowly. Also, high-sugar drinks are the number one source of added sugar in children’s diets. Drinking too many high sugar drinks contributes to overweight in children.
  • Avoid caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, and high doses in children can lead to rapid heart beat, headaches, upset stomach and disturbed sleep. Kids can get too much caffeine by consuming several servings of caffeine-containing drinks.