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Are caffeinated energy drinks bad for young people's health?

Just how bad are energy drinks for your health? For young people, the answer isn’t good. A new study has found that more than half of Canadian youths who have consumed energy drinks have experienced negative health effects.

Drinking the sugary, caffeine-laden beverages could be even riskier for young people than consuming coffee, the researchers found.

“Most risk assessments to date have used coffee as a reference for estimating the health effects of energy drinks; however, it is clear [energy drinks] pose a greater health risk,” said Dr. David Hammond of the University of Waterloo in a press release about the study. “The health effects from energy [drinks] could be due to the different ingredients than coffee, or the ways in which they [are] consumed, including with alcohol or during physical activity; regardless, the findings suggest a need to increase surveillance of health effects from these products.”

The study surveyed 2,055 young Canadians from the ages of 12 to 24. More than half of those who said they’d consumed energy drinks in the past reported that they’d also experienced negative health events they associated with the beverages, the researchers found.

Among the findings:

  • 24.7 percent reported experiencing a fast heartbeat
  • 24.1 percent reported difficulty sleeping
  • 18.3 percent reported experiencing headaches
  • 5.1 percent reported nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • 5 percent sought medical attention
  • 3.6 percent reported experiencing chest pains
  • 0.2 percent reported having a seizure

“The number of health effects observed in our study suggests that more should be done to restrict consumption among children and youths,” Hammond said in the press release. “At the moment, there are no restrictions on children purchasing energy drinks, and they are marketed at the point-of-sale in grocery stores, as well as advertising that targets children.”

The researchers believe the study supports regulations that would ban caffeinated energy drink makers from marketing the drinks to children and teens, as well as recommendations that people not drink them during athletic activities.

The study has been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal Open.

By Kyla Cathey, staff writer

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