Study: Energy drinks dangerous for teens

Credit: KING

Study: Energy drinks dangerous for teens

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by Erika Edwards / NBC

KTVB.COM

Posted on March 21, 2013 at 5:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 21 at 5:52 PM

Energy drinks have become an easy way to add a boost to your day.

But you may need to think before you drink. That burst of energy comes with potentially dangerous health problems - especially for teens.

The options for a quick caffeine boost keep pouring in. The energy drink industry is projected to reach nearly $20 billion in sales this year, thanks to its most popular customer - teenagers.

"Almost one in five 8th graders drinks an energy drink every day," said Mary Claire O'Brien, M.D., Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

That has experts concerned. Dr. Mary Claire O'Brien is one of 18 researchers who recently petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to restrict caffeine in energy drinks because they could be dangerous for young adults.

"They are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, in part because their body mass is lower, and in part because majority of them are caffeine naive compared to adults," said O’Brien.

A new study shows energy drinks have an immediate impact on heart rhythm and cause an increase blood pressure.

While most adults can tolerate this slight change in heart rate, teens' inexperience with caffeine makes their reaction stronger, with the potential to cause severe cardiac events, especially among those with heart problems.

Many energy drinks are classified as dietary supplements, and therefore have no limit to the amount of caffeine they can contain -- unlike sodas.

"We don't think it’s safe based on the science, and we don't agree that the case has been made by the manufacturers that the levels are safe," said O’Brien.

The American Beverage Association says research shows teens and young adults consume, on average, a third of the amount of caffeine as people over 21.

The FDA says they will assemble a panel of experts to discuss the possibility of limiting caffeine consumption by teenagers.

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