In April, a 16-year-old South Carolina high school student took a McDonald’s latte, a large Mountain Dew, and a 16 ounce energy drink in a two-hour time period. He fainted in the art class and before the bell rang to end the school day, he had died.
According to the coroner, the official cause of Davis Cripe’s death was a caffeine-induced cardiac event. Caffeine in the teenager’s system disrupted performance and finally stopped his heart.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 do not exceed 100 milligrams of caffeine per day, the amount of caffeine contained in a cup of coffee. The organization also recommends that teens do not consume energy drinks, although a 2011 study reveals that between 30 and 50 percent admit to consuming it.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the amount of caffeine in energy drinks, but some contain up to 300 milligrams per serving, or three times the recommended limit.
“It’s a loss of calories. There is no nutritional benefit and it contains a large component of caffeine that children do not need, “says Dr. Annie Casta, specialist in sports medicine and primary care at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. “The general consensus is that energy drinks are not for children or teenagers.”
Many teens routinely drink energy drinks, says Lucette Talamas, a nutritionist at Baptist Health South Florida.
“You have to read the content. Energizing drinks contain stimulants that can add to the effects of caffeine. We know that those ingredients can produce heart as well as neurological effects, “says Talamas. “There are also herbal ingredients that not only have not been studied in adolescents, but have not been studied in general. When you talk about natural extracts, we mean an industry that is not regulated, so the natural word is misleading. ”
In 2007, 1,145 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years visited the emergency room for an emergency related to energy drinks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for 2011 that number rose to 1,499. Some of the hazards of energy drinks include dehydration, heart complications such as irregular heartbeats and heart failure, anxiety and insomnia.
“If there is an underlying heart problem it poses a hazard, but even if it does not have an underlying heart condition, too much of the central nervous system’s stimulant affects the brain and heart,” Talamas says.
Energizing drinks have a large amount of sugar, some up to 14 teaspoons, which is linked to obesity and chronic conditions such as heart disease. Sugar-free energy drinks are no better, he says.
“The body of a teenager is already going through many things, including hormonal changes. If a teenager is also drinking coffee drinks, there is a lot of caffeine added in a day, “Talamas explains. “You have to see the added effects on the body.”
He says that the best way to get energy is with adequate hydration, with water as the main source. If you are playing sports for more than an hour in the heat of Florida, you can use sports drinks, although they should be diluted with half water. Get enough sleep and eat a nutritionally balanced diet with healthy carbohydrates.
“Distribute the calories throughout the day, with three meals and two snacks,” adds Talamas. “Eating consistently throughout the day is a way to maintain energy levels.”