Article at a Glance
• Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants that can be especially harmful to children.
• Sports drinks do not contain any stimulants, but they are very high in calories, making them a poor choice for general use.
Advertising makes energy and sports drinks attractive to children and teens, but that doesn’t mean they are intended for them. According to a recent clinical report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the use of energy and sports drinks among teens and children is not appropriate.
So before you stock your fridge with Red Bull or pack a Gatorade in your child’s lunch, here are some things you and your children should know.
The Difference Between Energy Drinks and Sports Drinks
Energy drinks contain high levels of stimulants intended to give you a temporary boost of performance. They can be dangerous because the high levels of caffeine can lead to dehydration, especially during heavy exercise.
Sports drinks, on the other hand, do not contain stimulants. Instead they contain carbohydrates, minerals, and electrolytes designed to prevent dehydration by replacing water and electrolytes lost while sweating.
Energy Drinks are Never Appropriate for Children or Teens
Energy drinks are packed with stimulants like caffeine, taurine, and guarana. Some energy drinks contain about the same amount of caffeine as 14 cans of caffeinated soda. Besides causing dehydration, studies have shown that caffeine is especially harmful to children, particularly to their developing cardiovascular and neurologic systems. Pediatricians also recommend that children and teens avoid caffeinated soda.
When Sports Drinks May be Appropriate for Children or Teens
In general, sports drinks are not intended for children or teens. During routine physical activity water is the best choice for rehydration. Sports drinks contain a lot of extra calories that can lead to weight gain—a growing concern among children. Sport drinks should only be used when involved in intense and prolonged exercise that involves lots of sweating.
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