Energy drinks packed with caffeine and sugar may pose serious health risks to users, especially children, adolescents and young adults, according to a study by the University of Miami School of Medicine published Monday in the online version of Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The study, co-authored by Dr. Steven Lipshultz, chief of pediatrics at the UM Medical School, says the drinks “have no therapeutic benefit, and many ingredients are understudied and not regulated.”
An 8-ounce can of Rockstar energy drink has twice the caffeine of a 14-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, the study notes.
The energy drink industry disputes the study’s findings: “This literature review does nothing more than perpetuate misinformation about energy drinks, their ingredients and the regulatory process,” said Dr. Maureen Storey, senior vice president of science policy for the American Beverage Association, in an e-mailed response.
According to Lipshultz, the drinks pose special risks for children with diabetes, ADHD, undiagnosed heart problems and other problems.
“Kids with diabetes are not really counseled about what’s in these drinks, and they could end up with very serious problems from sugar and caffeine,” he said.
For rehydrating after sports, he said, “drinks like Gatorade are probably OK. It’s not clear that parents or children differentiate between Gatorade and energy drinks like Red Bull.”
Another group at risk is the 8 to 12 percent of youths with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) who may try energy drinks even though they’re already on stimulants such as Ritalin to improve school performance, the study says.
“They’re not aware that the effects of a stimulant atop a stimulant may not be desirable,” Lipshultz said.
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