Doctors issue warning about teens and energy drinks - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Doctors issue warning about teens and energy drinks

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Energy drinks are the beverage of choice for nearly half of all teens, a fact that has experts concerned.

The drinks have unknown, and often high amounts of caffeine and ingredients that haven't been tested on young adults.

New research reveals serious side effects in teens who had energy drinks.

Pop the top for an instant jolt, but only if you're old enough to handle it.

"We know for a fact that children and teens do not tolerate caffeine as well as adults do," Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center physician Dr. Mary Claire O'Brien said.

What's also known, teens account for half of the energy drink market.

According to new research from the University of Miami, there were nearly 5,500 caffeine overdoses reported in the U.S. in 2007.

Of those, "48 percent occurred in those younger than 19 years of age," Dr. Steven Lipshultz of the University of Miami said.

Some of those cases may have been a combination of energy drinks and alcohol, but experts say a jolt of caffeine alone is enough to cause symptoms of an overdose in young people.

"Their heart is beating faster, fluttering, palpitating, they may feel nauseous, they may feel light headed," Lipshultz said.

Some teens are more susceptible than others.

"Children who may have heart diseases, they may have diabetes, they may have seizure disorders, they may have ADHD," he said.

Energy drinks aren't the only way kids get caffeine, they are also big soda drinkers.

But there's a big difference between the two.

"The amount of caffeine in soda is regulated, the amount of caffeine in energy drinks is not," O'Brien said.

The American Beverage Association issued a statement saying the FDA has deemed caffeine safe, and that "most mainstream energy drinks actually contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee."

But experts say many teens don't have just one, and that the drinks are marketed to a younger population.

"We don't go to high school football games and put a Starbuck's on the sidelines in between plays, it's not safe," O'Brien said.

And will be a topic of debate, and more research, for years to come.

The researchers say this study is meant to jump start conversations between parents and teens about energy drinks, and serve as a reminder to pediatricians that the drinks need to be discussed during patient exams.

Online Anchor: Sunny Layne

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