Energy drinks are shown in a store on Monday July 26, 2010 in Montreal. The sudden death of a 16-year-old South Carolina boy from a probable caffeine-induced heart arrhythmia has renewed concerns about the risks of children and youth consuming energy drinks and other beverages containing high levels of the stimulant.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Pediatricians say kids, teens should avoid sports and energy drinks

  • Sep. 26, 2017 2:02 p.m.

TORONTO — Kids and teens should not drink sports or energy drinks, the Canadian Paediatric Society says in a new position released Tuesday that takes a stand against the sugary beverages.

Dr. Catherine Pound, co-author of the statement and a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, says caffeinated energy drinks in particular can pose serious health risks and are unnecessary for most young people.

“I wouldn’t recommend them for anybody that fits our target population, which is anyone between the ages of zero and 18,” said Pound, noting that one can of energy drink contains more caffeine than the regular type of brewed coffee.

Too much can be deadly, as apparently was the case of a South Carolina teen who collapsed April 26 after downing an energy drink, a large pop and a cafe latte within a two-hour span.

Davis Cripe had no pre-existing heart condition but likely died from a caffeine-induced heart arrhythmia, said the local coroner.

The Canadian Paediatric Society had no official position on the use of energy and sports drinks at the time, however had suggested young non-athletes avoid them.

It now explicitly makes the case against both caffeinated energy drinks and non-caffeinated sports drinks among youth, suggesting there are very few who would need such stimulants.

“A lot of people believe they’re essential as part of rehydration for sports. But what we’re finding is actually they’re not — water is ideal for rehydration in sport,” said Pound, adding that doctors should routinely screen for their use.

“Only in the very specific subset of the population will they be useful and that’s the population of children that will perform very vigorous activity for over an hour or in very hot and humid weather.”

The other danger is mixing energy drinks with alcohol, said Pound, adding that those who do so tend to participate in high-risk behaviour such as illicit drug use.

Caffeinated energy drinks claim to boost energy, reduce fatigue and improve concentration. The amount of caffeine typically exceeds Health Canada’s maximum daily intake for kids.

Pound cautioned against side effects, which include difficulty sleeping, increased anxiety, heart rhythm abnormalities, vomiting and diarrhea.

Sports drinks, which contain a mixture of sugars and electrolytes, are often marketed as fluid replacements during sports or vigorous physical activity.

But statement co-author Becky Blair, a member of Dietitians of Canada, said these drinks contribute to obesity and dental cavities.

“It’s just really an extra source of calories for children that they don’t need,” said Blair, who’d like to see legislation ban marketing of caffeinated energy drinks to adolescents, in addition to existing restrictions that protect children under the age of 12.

“All they really need for hydration is just drinking water and eating a balanced diet.”

The trade association representing companies that make and distribute most of Canada’s non-alcoholic beverages countered that its members are committed to guidelines that prevent marketing anything other than juice, milk and water to children.

The Canadian Beverage Association also said sports drinks are not intended to replace water as a source of hydration and that its energy drink companies “are committed to responsibly manufacturing, marketing, and labelling energy drinks in full accordance with Health Canada’s requirements.”

Nevertheless, Pound said it’s worth considering an even tougher stand against energy drinks, musing on the value of restricting use to adults, like alcohol: “I don’t think it would be a bad idea at all.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics came out against kids and youth using energy drinks in 2011.

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