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Dangers of High Caffeine Levels in Popular "Energy Drinks" Put Children and Teens at Risk
New Rochelle, NY, November 2, 2010—Beverages spiked with high levels of caffeine that are marketed as “energy drinks” pose serious health and safety risks for children and adolescents, who can purchase these drinks at neighborhood stores. Some of these new energy drinks contain a combination of caffeine and alcohol and are being targeted to young adults. Journal of Caffeine Research: The International Multidisciplinary Journal of Caffeine Science, a new peer-reviewed journal launching in Spring 2011 from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers will provide a central forum for the dissemination of scientific studies on the potential health effects of caffeine, including caffeinated energy drinks.
“There has been relatively little research specifically aimed at revealing the effects of caffeine in young people, and much more work is urgently needed,” says Jack E. James, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Caffeine Research, School of Psychology, National University of Ireland, Galway. “In addition to the risks of physical dependence and withdrawal, caffeine has been found to have a negative effect on the academic performance of children and adolescents. Caffeine consumption by youngsters can set the stage for a life-long habit of caffeine use, with the potential for long-term health effects, and may also increase the likelihood that they will use other drugs, both licit and illicit, during adolescence and later in life.”
Fueling the growing controversy and the dangers associated with these so-called energy drinks are two trends: targeted marketing of the beverages to young consumers (offering the drinks in fruit flavors and packaging them in colorful cans); and the increasing popularity of alcoholic energy drinks, such as Four Loko, which contains both caffeine and the alcohol equivalent of as much as three beers.
The potential dangers of caffeine-enhanced beverages are especially worrying for adolescents and children who may experience even stronger caffeine-related effects than adults due to their smaller stature and the potentially higher caffeine concentrations in their blood after consuming these beverages. The physical and psychoactive effects of caffeine can include increased blood pressure, dependence and associated withdrawal symptoms such as headache, sleep disturbance, increased daytime sleepiness, and irritability, and the potential to compound emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, and anger.