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Avoid These Dangerous Drinks for Kids

By Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic, PhD, RD

Once you become a parent, you want only the best for your child. In turn, if something is dangerous or potentially deadly for them, you’ll make sure they’re never exposed to it no matter what it takes.

Parents of active children in sports or competitive events, must especially be careful because there are many sports nutrition products on the market that may be good for adults, but are not good whatsoever for kids.

For example, the same energy drinks that may give parents a boost each day, can be extremely harmful for their children.

Some drinks are better than others for active children

According to a new report on Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for children, released in the June 2011 Pediatrics journal, energy drinks loaded with stimulants have been linked to a number of horrible side effects in children, and should be avoided.

Side effects such as high blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia, in addition to more serious effects such as heart rate disturbances and cardiovascular events.

In most cases, the amount of caffeine, and some of the “energy-boosting” herbal products found in popular energy drinks is inappropriate for a child’s developing nervous system and cardiovascular supply.

In a study comparing caffeine intake in boys and men unhabituated to caffeine, only the boys experienced a depression of heart rate, and increased motor activity and speech rate.

Experts recommend that adolescents and children do not exceed caffeine intake of more than 100 mg/day or 2.5 mg/kg/day, respectively; while science has showed us that children are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine on their normal physiological functioning.

But yet parents may give, or even encourage, their children to have these drinks to give them a “competitive edge." What they don’t realize is that this “edge” could kill them.

A better choice for kids is a non-caffeinated sports beverage – one high in nutrients that an active, healthy child really needs - nutrients like protein for muscle repair and growth plus sustained energy, electrolytes to replace those lost in sweat, and carbohydrate for muscle energy.

Children are growing constantly, and benefit from quick energy in a liquid form that they can consume easily between school and sports. But this energy should not come in caffeinated or herbal stimulant form.

A beverage that mixes easily in water can be drunk on the run, and will not over-elevate their blood sugar levels (from excessive carbohydrates), and leaving them ravenous and irritable for balanced whole food later, is the best choice.

An ideal sports drink should contain beneficial protein, hunger satisfying fiber, and necessary electrolytes, so it provides growing children with the right type of nutrients to support a healthy, active lifestyle without dangerous or deadly side effects.

Make sure you read labels carefully and avoid giving your children something that could really ruin their game instead of making it better.


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Health effects of energy drinks on children, adolescents, and young adults.
Seifert SM, Schaechter JL, Hershorin ER, Lipshultz SE.
Pediatrics. 2011 Mar;127(3):511-28. Epub 2011 Feb 14. Review.

Effects of caffeine on physiological responses to exercise: boys versus men.
Turley KR, Desisso T, Gerst JW
Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2007;19(4):481–492