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Why a Ban on Selling Energy Drinks to Youths Is Wise

Health & Wellness  (tags: health, diet, energy drinks, caffeine, nutrition, research, prevention, protection, food, safety, study, warning )

- 1660 days ago -
The Canadian Medical Association issues policy positions on a number of issues, but one of its most recent decisions went largely under-reported. It has called for a ban on selling energy drinks to young people.

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Michael O (176)
Wednesday November 6, 2013, 8:46 pm
By Christopher Labos

Even though most energy drinks have a warning label saying that they should not be used by individuals under the age of 14, a survey in New Brunswick found that 57 per cent of students admitted to using them. The concern lies partly in what these products contain, and partly in how they are used.

Most energy drinks contain the same basic ingredients: caffeine, sugar (lots of it), carbonated water and a smattering of other ingredients for flavour. Energy drinks contain roughly the same amount of sugar as soft drinks — that is, about 9 grams per 100 millilitres. That, roughly, comes out to around 30 grams per 355-ml (12-oz.) can. That is a very large amount, when you consider that the American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake to 36 g per day for men and 24 g per day for women. Thus, a single energy drink per day will basically put you over the top, given that you are probably consuming some other amount of sugar during the day.

There have been a number of studies linking soft drinks to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There are, admittedly, no similar studies with energy drinks, but their high sugar content suggests that the same relationship would probably hold true.

Most people, however, take energy drinks for the caffeine content. An 8-oz. cup of coffee contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine, and most energy drinks have roughly the same amount of caffeine (although it can vary greatly by brand). But energy drinks also contain such ingredients as guarana, kola nut and yerba mate, each of which contains its own caffeine (guarana seeds contain two to three times as much caffeine as coffee beans). Therefore, the caffeine content of energy drinks may be much higher than the label indicates.

The real danger, though, lies not so much in the drinks themselves, but in how they are consumed. While most people will leisurely sip their morning coffee over several minutes, energy drinks are often gulped down several at a time. Pounding back a six-pack during exam time is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon. While the evidence suggests that moderate amounts of coffee are probably safe, it’s unknown what effect large, sudden amounts of caffeine may have.

There is more data to support growing concern over the new trend of mixing these energy drinks with alcohol. A 2010 survey by the University of Florida found that patrons who mixed alcohol with energy drinks were three times more likely to leave the bar intoxicated and four times more likely to drive upon leaving the bar.

A study from the University of Buffalo found that alcohol mixed with energy drinks was associated with high-risk sexual activity. It may be that the carbonated water in energy drinks increases the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream; or it may be that energy drinks blunt the sedative effects of alcohol and provide a false sense of alertness when alcohol has already impaired reasoning and judgment. Either way, adolescents, not known for consistent good judgment to begin with, are particularly vulnerable to the mixing of alcohol with energy drinks.

The ban proposed by the Canadian Medical Association is based more on concern than on hard data for the risk itself. It is true that, in equal portions, energy drinks have as much sugar as a can of cola and as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. However, the tendency to drink multiple cans at a time means that young people cramming for finals are subjecting their young hearts to higher doses of caffeine than the average morning-coffee drinker.

I believe the assocation’s call for a ban is prudent in the absence of more safety data. Even if these drinks do end up being no worse than coffee, in my opinion, at age 14, you shouldn’t be drinking either energy drinks or coffee.

Ondine J (134)
Wednesday November 6, 2013, 10:35 pm
Noted thanks. I do agree they should not be sold to youths

Past Member (0)
Thursday November 7, 2013, 9:24 am
Yes absolutely a wise decision...i'd love to see it...and it would also be wonderful to get rid of the pop vending machines in schools and hospitals. Thx Michael
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