February 6, 2009

Energy drinks not for children

Energy drinks are the coffee of a new generation, but they have too much sugar and caffeine and can have a negative health impact, a Canadian researcher said.

Stephanie Cote, nutritionist with Extenso, a Universite de Montreal health and nutrition think-tank, said it's not uncommon for students to consume energy drinks to increase their concentration as they study throughout the night.

A 2008 report by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada found 1.5 billion cans of Red Bull were sold in the United States in 2004. Consumption in Canada is said to be comparable, and it is a growing trend for 18-to 24-year-olds.

However, this market segment is broadening as younger children are beginning to consume these drinks before doing physical activity, Cote said.

These drinks aren't recommended to either athletes or children under the age of 12 -- energy drinks don't hydrate the body efficiently, Cote said in a statement. They have too much sugar. And caffeine doesn't necessarily improve physical performance. In high quantities it can increase the risks of fatigue and dehydration.

Several studies have demonstrated that strong doses of caffeine can increase hypertension, cause heart palpitations, provoke irritability and anxiety, and cause headaches and insomnia. Health Canada does not recommend consuming more than two cans per day, Cote said.