Highly caffeinated energy drinks pose health threats to kids

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA recent article by Michelle Cortez, writing for Bloomberg News, reviews a report from the American Heart Association s meeting on the risk to children of highly caffeinated energy drinks. The report presented data from poison control centers, and found that over half the calls about energy drinks involved children under 6 years of age.

Over 5,000 reports occurring between October 2010 and September 2013 were analyzed. The researchers found that most of the young children affected had obtained the drinks accidentally, and the effects in some cases were serious. For example, almost one third of these children had tremors or seizures, nausea and vomiting or chest pain and erratic heart beats.

Cortez quotes Dr. Steven Lipshultz, chair of pediatrics at Wayne State University: You normally think of teens and young adults as most likely to drink them [highly caffeinated energy drinks], but we found that half of calls to U.S. poison control centers involved unintentional exposures by children less than 6 years old.

The FDA collects adverse health events related to energy drinks, and notes that many are sold as dietary supplements, which means that the manufacturers can market the products without first submitting safety data to the FDA.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava commented Here again we see the negative effects of the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA). It behooves all those who consume these products to be aware of the potential negative effects, and to be sure that they do not fall into the hands of children. However, because these drinks are considered supplements, there is no legal requirement for manufacturers to specify the amount of caffeine in their product, which makes it difficult to know about potential negative effects from consuming them.