Caffeinated energy drinks are simply not safe for children and sports drinks are too sugary and should be avoided, says the Canadian Paediatric Society in a newly released position statement.
The new statement says kids and teens shouldn’t drink energy drinks because they can pose serious health risks, while sports drinks can contribute to obesity and cavities.
Dr. Catherine Pound, a co-author of the statement and a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, says her group decided to release the statement after noticing that sports and energy drinks have become widely available, and kids and teens are consuming more of them.
“We wanted to inform pediatricians and other physicians and member of the public that there are risks associated with the consumption of these two types of beverages,” Dr. Pound told CTVNews.ca.
When it comes to sports drinks, while they might be marketed as rehydration tools during sports, most children simply don’t need them, says Pound.
“For your average child, they are not needed. Water does the same in terms of rehydration. And if anything, is better,” she said, referring to the fact that water is typically more quickly absorbed than sugary drinks.
The other advantage of water, Pound says, is that it is sugar-free.
“And in a world where we already have an obesity and overweight epidemic, it’s important to realize these drinks can easily contribute to that,” she said.
As for energy drinks, the amount of caffeine in the drinks is simply not safe for children, says Pound, since they typically exceed Health Canada’s maximum daily intake recommended for kids.
Children have smaller bodies and generally don’t have the tolerance for caffeine that many adults have, which means they are more susceptible to its potentially dangerous side effects.
Those side effects can include racing heartrates and heart rhythm disturbances that are serious enough to send drink consumers as young as eight years old to hospital. There have even been reports of deaths following heavy consumption of the drinks.
“It’s not common for someone to die of caffeine overdose, of course, but children are definitely at risk,” Pound said.
Energy drinks might claim to boost alertness, and improve concentration, but because the drinks are sweetened, they taste good and encourage over-consumption, Dr. Pound said.
“It is not unusual to consume more than one, increasing the risk of side effects,” she said, adding that youth with health issues such as heart problems, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, are particularly at risk, as well as those who take stimulant medications.
Even those who aren’t at risk of serious health effects can experience other problems from energy drinks, Pound says, including diarrhea, vomiting, impulsive behaviour, anxiety, and sleep interference.
“So the effects are quite varied and they can affect pretty much any system in your body,” she said.
When mixed with alcohol, energy drinks can be especially dangerous, the position statement says.
Pound says kids and teens should be kept away from energy and sports drinks altogether and that the Canadian Paediatric Society would like to see legislation to prevent the marketing of these drinks to kids and teens.
The Canadian Beverage Association, which represents major manufacturers, responded by saying it “believes strongly in informing and educating Canadians about the beverages they consume.”
The CBA says that it already abides by an Energy Drink Marketing Code that prohibits adherents from selling energy drinks in both elementary and secondary schools, while its Guidelines for Marketing to Children prohibit marketing anything but 100 per cent juice, milk or water to children under age 12.
“A strict regulatory environment is already in place in Canada regarding the manufacturing and sales of these beverages,” the CBA said.