Energy drinks and teens: Are they safe to drink?

DETROIT (WXYZ) – The sale of energy drinks to children under 16 isn’t illegal in Europe, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for teens to get their hands on the drinks — supermarkets like Asda, Aldi, Tesco and others have banned together to stop selling energy drinks with more than 150 milligrams of caffeine per liter to anyone under 16.

In the states we’ve yet to see anything as dramatic as a ban, but lawmakers haven’t been shy to demand more of energy drink companies. As far back as 2013 a group of senators called on energy drink companies to add the amount of caffeine in their drinks to labels — something that is now commonplace in the industry.

There is no guideline for the safe consumption of caffeine for children — most groups acknowledge a 400 mg limit for adults, but the American Academy of Pediatrics has state that energy drinks shouldn’t be consumed by children or adolescents.

The CDC recommends that people between the ages of 12 and 18 should not exceed 100 milligrams of caffeine per day — that’s the equivalent of roughly one cup of coffee, but energy drinks vary in size and concentration of caffeine. A trip to the grocery store with a close eye on the nutrition table of individual drinks can find anywhere from 80 milligrams of caffeine in an 8 ounce drink to a few hundred in a 16, 24 or 32 ounce can depending on the brand.

A study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2017 noted that the consumption of 32 ounces of an energy drink was associated with more changes in the heart’s electrical activity and elevated blood pressure when compared to other drinks with an equal amount of caffeine — but the authors noted that the results should be taken with caution, noting limitations of the study.

The American Beverage Association has long decried misconceptions of energy drinks — recently stating: “the fact — confirmed by scientific research and regulatory agencies around the globe — is that energy drinks and their ingredients can be consumed safely in moderation.”

The question remains: how do we ensure drinks are only being used “in moderation?”

In Michigan a teenager drank a combination of energy drinks and pop and it landed him in the hospital last month — his mother, Sue Halliwell of Jackson County, said her son won’t suffer permanent damage as a result; but the situation drew alarm and her post about it quickly went viral.

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