A clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that energy drinks, sports drinks, and any drinks with caffeine should be off limits to children and teenagers.[i]These drinks have become wildly popular among kids, but they pose a litany of health problems that make them inappropriate.
To be clear, the pediatricians make a distinction between energy drinks and sports drinks, neither of which are considered particularly healthy for kids. Energy drinkstypically contain caffeine and other stimulants, whereas sports drinks contain a lot of sugar and calories masquerading as electrolyte replacements. Neither drink is really necessary for growing kids.
Caffeine and other stimulants can interfere with sleep, cause anxiety, raise heart rate, and increase the risk of dehydration. As such, pediatricians have concluded that energy drinks can have harmful effects on children’s brains and hearts. The drinks provide an unnecessary stress to growing bodies.
Sports drinks don’t pose the potentially grave health risks that energy drinks do; however, they are loaded with calories and sugar—a huge problem in the face of the growing obesity epidemic. Overconsumption of these sugary drinks can lead to obesity and tooth decay, not to mention the grumpy moods that result from the sugar blues.
Sports drinks have become a popular drink for families on the go and many parents mistakenly believe that these drinks are a healthier option than soda. Kids are guzzling the drinks at lunch and after school instead of water. In reality, sports drinks are intended for prolonged physical exercise. Unless a child is an athlete exercising for an extended period of time, he doesn’t need the extra carbohydrates and electrolytes provided by these drinks. Let’s face it—most kids are sipping these sugary drinks while staring at a TV or computer screen, not sweating on the playing fields.
The bottom line—ditch the energy and sports drinks and put water on the menu instead.
[i] American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Clinical report: Sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: Are they appropriate? Pediatrics. Published online May 29, 2011: doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0965.