Medical experts have warned parents not to allow their children to consume energy drinks, as it may cause digestive problems, dehydration, anxiety, jitteriness, heart palpitations, and high blood pressure. The physicians expressed worries that children are more susceptible to negative health consequences due to the high doses of caffeine present in energy drinks. They warned that caffeine intoxication in children can affect the development of the nervous system and heart functions. A Paediatric Cardiologist, Dr. Samuel Owoyemi, said children with underlying and undiagnosed heart conditions are more at risk of suffering worse effects from energy drink consumption. While noting that caffeine is an important ingredient in energy drinks, he warned that excessive intake of the substance by adults might cause palpitations, hypertension, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, psychosis, and, in rare instances, death.
He maintained that it could be worse for children as they can adversely suffer from irregular heart rhythms, known as arrhythmias, that can occur due to hyperstimulation of the heart. “Arrhythmias can affect how much blood is pumped throughout the body, making you feel dizzy. Arrhythmias that are left untreated over time may develop into more serious or deadly disorders. “You don’t need energy drinks because they are filled with non-nutritional stimulants like caffeine. Children may be more susceptible to the ingredients in energy drinks than adults. Regular energy drink consumption stresses the body, and a developing body shouldn’t be stressed,” Dr. Owoyemi said. Similarly, a Consultant Paediatrician, Bello Surajudeen, affirmed that the consumption of energy drinks by children can cause mental health issues, and addiction, as well as pose nutritional challenges. He explained that children who take energy drinks may suffer from overnutrition or undernutrition, pointing out that the drink mostly causes micronutrient deficiency.
He said, “The dangers of drinking energy drinks are many. It can cause nutritional problems in children and has negative effects on their hearts. It can also have negative mental effects on children. “In terms of heart problems, it is usually centred on having an abnormal heartbeat. There is also the risk of having palpitations, in which case, the heart will be beating very fast.” Continuing, he said, “Nutritionals wise, when some children become addicted to it, they will not want to eat nutritious food again and will become dependent on fast foods and energy drinks, which they believe makes them feel better. “It will also tilt them towards overnutrition, overweight or obesity. They can also suffer from undernutrition. With undernutrition, they will have what we call micronutrient deficiency because there are some nutrients that they can only get from food, which are absent in those energy drinks. “They may not be small for their age, but will have what is called hidden hunger, which means some micronutrients like vitamins, and minerals, among others, are deficient in their bodies.” On how it can impact children’s mental health, Dr. Surajudeen said the caffeine content can turn children into energy drink addicts.
According to him, “It can affect their mental health because energy drink contains caffeine, which has the tendency to keep them awake, and also turn them into dependents. “When they take energy drinks frequently, they become addicted, so much so that if they don’t take it, they may not be able to function properly. Some may not be able to sleep and this will impact negatively on their academic performances in school. At the end of the day, as they grow older, the tendency that they may end up taking drugs to get the caffeine effect is high. “Taking them off it will be quite difficult because of what we call withdrawal symptoms. It will be very difficult even if they attempt to stop or someone wants to stop them. So, it may end up becoming a psychiatric issue.” Dr. Surajudeen further said energy drinks can also turn adults into addicts, and that they can as well suffer from heart disorders. He said, “Taking energy drinks can also affect an adult due to the presence of caffeine. There are those that will get so addicted that they will not be able to do anything without taking a gulp.
“The difference between its effect on a child and an adult is in the area of nutrition because adults don’t have nutritional problems like children. But basically, they can have all other problems a child consuming energy drink is exposed to.” Meanwhile, a recent research has found a link between energy drinks and the likelihood of experiencing severe heart-related health risks, nervous system disorders, liver and kidney problems. The study, published in the journal, Nutrients, found that minors who reported consuming excessive amounts of energy drinks, especially those containing caffeine, saw severe impacts on their health, especially if they had pre-existing medical conditions or took stimulants or party drugs. The researchers looked at 18 children and adolescents under the age of 18, who had reported suffering from adverse health effects related to their energy drink consumption.
Around 45 per cent experienced side effects to their cardiovascular system, including cardiac arrhythmia and arterial hypertension – high blood pressure that affects the arteries in the lungs and the right side of the heart, reports The Sun. Some also experienced acute coronary artery vasospasm, which is when the heart’s arteries suddenly constrict, causing spasms, and spontaneous coronary artery dissection – when a tear appears in the wall of a coronary artery, which supplies blood to your heart. In some cases, the teens had pre-existing health conditions that made them more susceptible to potential triggers. 33 per cent of the participants saw their nervous systems affected by drinking the beverages.
The researchers noted that the neuropsychiatric impacts of the drinks remain unstudied, but that chronic consumption can be linked to panic attacks, psychotic episodes, hyper-excitability, and headaches. The study indicated that it also negatively impacts brain development and can lead to insomnia, attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity. Two of the minors involved were noted to have experienced side effects in their liver, with researchers attributing this to the niacin and sugar in energy drinks.