Children should not consume energy drinks, and intake of sweetened drinks should be limited, according to researchers led by the Yale School of Public Health, US.
Exposure to caffeine during adolescence may affect sleep and nutrition – impacting on brain growth and development, they suggest. The effect of other energy drink ingredients (which include those also used in over-the-counter diet drugs) are not yet fully understood.
Sweetened beverages, energy drinks, and hyperactivity
In line with previous studies, the research suggests an increased risk of hyperactivity and inattention with an increase in sweetened beverage consumption. However, previous studies have either focused on the link between hyperactivity and soda, or failed to distinguish between different beverages.
In the Yale study, school children were surveyed on their consumption of drinks.
Researchers found risk of hyperactivity and inattention increased by 14% for each additional sweetened beverage consumed. Those who drank energy drinks were 66% more likely to be at risk than those who didn’t, regardless of overall sweetened beverage intake.
“We found no such independent association with soda or any other type of sweetened beverage, above and beyond the number and other types of sugary drinks consumed,” wrote lead researcher Jeannette Ickovics.
“These results suggest that the association between hyperactivity/inattention and energy drinks exists at any level of consumption, which was not true of other types of sweetened beverages.”
Children with ADHD – attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder – are believed to have poorer academic outcomes, struggle in their relationships with peers, and are more prone to injuries, according to previous research.
Boys more likely to consume energy drinks
The study differs from previous research in that it looked at the racial and ethnic composition of participants. 1,649 students were surveyed from an urban school district in Connecticut, with an average age of 12.4 years old. The racial/ethnic distribution was 47% Hispanic, 38% black, and 15% white.
83% of the sample were eligible free or reduced-price lunches; and fewer than half of the students lived in a home with both mother and father.
“Reported amount and variety of consumption [of sweetened beverages] was greater among black and Hispanic students compared to white students, with black and Hispanic students consuming an average of 2.37 and 2.30 beverages and 2.22 and 2.31 different types of beverages per day, respectively, while white students reported an average of 1.78 beverages and 1.55 types of beverages per day,” saidIckovics.
Boys were more likely to consume energy drinks than girls; and black and Hispanic boys were more likely to drink them than white students.
Energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine and sugar. Researchers say caffeine may be responsible for the association between energy drinks and hyperactivity, with the caffeine content of energy drinks far greater than that of soda.
“The combination of sugar and caffeine also may facilitate caffeine dependence, and exposure to caffeine during adolescence while brain development is underway may disrupt proper sleep and nutrition—two critical elements of maximizing brain growth and development,” said Ickovics.
“Further, there are numerous other ingredients in energy drinks besides sugar and caffeine, the exact effects of which are still being studied. Some ingredients found in energy drinks are also used in over-the-counter diet drugs, and the impact of these ingredients on health are yet fully understood.”
Title: “Energy Drinks and Youth Self-Reported Hyperactivity/Inattention Symptoms”
Schwartz, D.L.; Gilstad-Hayden, K; Carroll-Scott, A.; Grilo, A.A.; McCaslin, C.; Schwartz, M.; Ickovics, J.R.
Source: Academic Pediatrics, Available online February 9, 2015 doi:10.1016/j.acap.2014.11.006