“You are getting stimulants on top of stimulants so that is not going to help you concentrate better,” Lipshultz said.
Caffeine intoxication is a clinical syndrome marked by nervousness, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, or tachycardia, and stomach upset.
“I definitely think it’s a disservice done to our kids,” said Baptist Health South Florida chief wellness dietician Natalie Castro about the energy drinks. “Caffeine is a stimulant. There is a smaller body weight, they are younger, and there’s too much stimulation going on. This is not something that is recommended or needed as part of a healthy diet.”
A recent report from the American Medical Association supported a ban on the marketing of energy drinks to children younger than 18. The American Academy of Pediatrics added that “energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents.”
Other research studies have found that the high level of citric acid, used as a preservative in energy drinks, strips the protective enamel from teeth, which leads to cavities. The energy drinks had a more harmful effect on enamel than traditional sports drinks like Gatorade.
An analysis of energy drink toxicity in the National Poison Data System by a team of doctors from the University of Miami, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center and Holtz Children’s Hospital of Jackson Health System was published in June by Informa Healthcare.
The report said the threshold of caffeine toxicity for healthy adults is 400 mg per day and the numbers decline the younger one gets. An adolescent’s threshold is 100 mg per day; children younger than 12 should tolerate no more than 2.5 mg per day. Energy drinks top most of these numbers.
Tracey Halliday, vice president of communications for the American Beverage Association, addressed the reports by sending the Miami Herald the organization’s letter to the FDA, along with its analysis of The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s January 2013 report, which used data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN).
The DAWN report noted an increase in the number of emergency department visits involving energy drinks and concluded that the consumption of these drinks “is a rising public health problem.”
At the request of the American Beverage Association, Pinney Associates, a pharmaceutical and healthcare research group with offices in Maryland and Pennsylvania, was asked to conduct a review of the DAWN report.
Among the DAWN findings, energy drink-related visits comprised 0.25 percent of all drug-related emergency department visits in 2007. By 2011, that rate rose to 0.41, or nearly double. These visits, however, did not require further medical follow-up, compared with emergency visits related to other products or medications.
The Pinney analysis ruled that the “limitations of the DAWN system suggest caution in basing public health policy on the results relative to energy drinks.”
Halliday also cited the industry’s July letter to the FDA. The healthcare professionals’ reports, including the UM studies, “paint a distorted and highly inaccurate picture of caffeine use and safety, ignoring the vast number of robust and reliable scientific publications that have, for decades, established the safety of caffeine at the levels presented in energy drinks, including for younger consumers.”