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Energy Drinks and Sports Drinks Linked to Unhealthy Behaviors in Teenagers


A new study has found that teenagers who regularly consume energy drinks and sports drinks are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors. Teens who often drank energy drinks like Red Bull and ROCKSTAR were more apt to smoke, use illicit drugs and drink alcohol. And teens who drank either energy or sports drinks regularly tended to spend more hours watching TV and playing video games.

The study was published online recently in the Journal of Nutrition, Education and Behavior; it’s one of the first studies to show that consumption of these drinks may be part of an overall pattern of unhealthy behaviors for growing numbers of teenagers.

Consumption of sports and energy drinks among American teens has more than tripled in recent years; medical professionals have begun sounding off alarms about the dangers of overuse of these kinds of beverages by children and teens.

Doctors note that excessive energy drink consumption creates a risk for overstimulation of the nervous system. These drinks are causing some youths to experience seizures, irregular heart beats, and in rare cases, they can lead to death. Excessive consumption of either energy or sports drinks, meanwhile, is said to be contributing to the obesity and overweight epidemics in school-age children.

For the above study, researchers surveyed close to 2,800 middle and high school students from 20 public schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area, during the 2009-2010 school year. Close to 40 percent of the youths stated that they consumed at least 1 energy drink a week; about 15 percent said they drank at least 1 sports drink a week. Boys were more likely to consume the beverages regularly than girls.

Kids who regularly drank sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade were more likely to play organized sports. They were more inclined to get intense regular exercise — but they also tended to spend much more time playing video games and watching TV than kids who rarely drank sports drinks.

Male students who regularly consumed energy drinks spent an average of 4 hours more a week playing video games than boys who used the beverages infrequently, while girls who often drank energy drinks averaged 2 more hours of weekly video game play than girls who seldom had the drinks. Girls who drank energy drinks regularly were also more likely to skip breakfast than girls who rarely or never used the drinks; and both boys and girls who drank energy drinks regularly were more likely to have tried cigarettes.

Health experts have pointed out that sports drinks should basically be consumed by people engaged in vigorous physical activity when the weather is hot (and the body is losing salts, or electrolytes, at a fast rate). Otherwise, sports drinks are just added calories (from the sweeteners) contributing to excess weight. (Then, there are the artificial preservatives and colors used to make these drinks, which have no nutritional value and could only do harm when consumed in excess.)

The study’s author noted that plain water is still the best choice to quench thirst most of the time, even when children are exercising.

As for the high caffeine content (and assorted artificial chemicals) in energy drinks, parents should encourage their children to opt for healthier choices, such as tea — or getting enough sleep at night, which in the end is much healthier than getting hooked on caffeine.

By Jamell Andrews

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