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A Monster lurking in the classroom
Energy drinks deemed dangerous to young minds

Medical experts agree that energy drinks pose a significant health risk despite being incredibly popular. Charles Walcott, MD, explains that risk and how parents can talk with their children about these drinks.

The sleek, brightly colored metallic cans are commonplace in classrooms and offices across the country, but despite their popularity, medical experts agree that energy drinks pose a significant health risk. While the amount of sugar in the drinks is reason for discussion, it’s the caffeine that has escalated concern within the medical community. 

“These types of drinks, such as Monster and Red Bull, are more harmful than your average soft drink,” said Charles Walcott, MD, a family medicine specialist with Northeast Medical Group in Niantic. 

To put the amount of caffeine into perspective, Dr. Walcott said that a bottle of soda contains roughly 35 mg of caffeine and a cup of coffee has about 100 mg. “Energy drinks can have up to five times that amount,” he said. “A single energy drink vastly exceeds the caffeine intake of the typical American who has two cups of coffee a day.” 

Health organizations across the globe including the World Health Organization, National Health Service (UK) and the Centers for Disease Control have issued warnings and medical journals, including the Journal of Public Health, have published studies showing how energy drinks harm the body. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), energy drinks can cause heart complications, including irregular heartbeat and even heart failure. Their consumption can also lead to increased anxiety and insomnia.

Much has been reported on the toll these drinks have on the adolescent and young adult body. However, they may be even more dangerous for those 40 and older. 

“Fortunately kids don’t generally have heart conditions or other medical issues, but that isn’t the case for older people,” Dr. Walcott warned. “Patients in their 40s or 50s are more likely to be on medication for diabetes, hypertension or arrhythmia. Energy drinks can impact the effectiveness of some of these medications, putting patients’ health at risk.” 

One reason the medical community is so concerned about widespread use of energy drinks is the lack of federal regulation. Energy drinks are classified as dietary supplements and are not subject to the same scrutiny as other substances.  

“If a patient asks me if there is an energy drinks out there that would be okay to have, my answer is, ‘No.’ My number one recommendation is do not consume these drinks, no matter what your age. But if you are, I strongly urge you to be honest about it with your doctor,” Dr. Walcott said.

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Yale New Haven Hospital nutrition experts translate the science of food into practical solutions for every day healthy living. Committed to helping people enjoy healthy lives, Yale New Haven registered dietitians help children and adults make unique, positive lifestyle changes.

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