Monday, July 26, 2010

Energy Drinks Pose Serious Health Risk to Kids: Globe and Mail

Energy drinks pose serious health risk to kids: Canadian medical journal

Samm Robbins, 14, enjoys the occasional energy drink but sees it taking hold of people her age who become far to reliant on the beverage's buzz.
Federal minister of health needs to be ‘awakened’ to danger of sky-high caffeine levels

Carly Weeks
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Caffeinated energy drinks are a potential danger to children and need stronger scrutiny from government health officials, warns a new editorial in Canada’s leading medical journal.
The editorial, published online Monday by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, argues that the growing availability of highly-caffeinated energy drinks poses a serious threat to the health of young people who are vulnerable to the effects of caffeine.
“It is time for the federal minister of health to be awakened and alerted to concerns about energy drinks sold to children,” states the editorial, written by Noni MacDonald, section editor of population and public health at CMAJ, Matthew Stanbrook, CMAJ’s deputy editor, scientific and Paul H├ębert, editor-in-chief of the journal. “Strict regulations are required if business practices and consumer trends are not curbed.”
Red Bull is one high-profile example of a caffeinated energy drink. But the market for these products has exploded in recent years, meaning there is a growing number of products available that deliver high levels of caffeine to consumers.
Unlike cola drinks or similar carbonated beverages, these energy drinks contain much higher levels of caffeine.
For instance, a 250 millilitre bottle of Coca-Cola contains 26 milligrams of caffeine, according to the company’s web site. But a 75 millilitre bottle of Rockstar “energy shot” contains 200 milligrams of caffeine. A 355 millilitre can of Red Bull contains 113.6 milligrams of caffeine.
Health Canada says children between ages 10 and 12 should not consume more than 85 milligrams of caffeine a day. Healthy adults shouldn’t consume more than 400 milligrams a day, the department says.
“At a minimum, all products with caffeine levels exceeding 100 milligrams should have labels and advertising that carry warnings comparable to those required for caffeine tablets. To minimize use by children, there should be no advertising targeting this vulnerable group,” the editorial says.
Caffeine tablets carry warnings they should not be taken by children and that excessive amounts of caffeine can lead to irritability, loss of sleep, nervousness, and even rapid heart rate.
One of the biggest concerns, according to the authors, is that it’s extremely difficult to tell how much caffeine energy drinks actually contain. While companies print how much synthetic caffeine their drinks contain on product labels, they’re not required to state the amount of caffeine contained in herbal ingredients that are also included in their product.
Red Bull and other companies that sell caffeinated energy drinks did not respond to requests for comment.
Refreshments Canada, an industry association representing beverage makers, issued a statement saying companies that sell caffeinated energy drinks are responsible and don’t engage in marketing campaigns aimed at children. It states that energy drink labels clearly indicate the products should not be consumed by children and that the products have been approved for sale in more than 100 countries.

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