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Kids, teens urged to avoid energy drinks

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TORONTO—Kids and teens should not drink sports or energy drinks, the Canadian Paediatric Society says in a new position released Tuesday that takes a stand against the sugary beverages.

Dr. Catherine Pound, co-author of the statement and a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, says caffeinated energy drinks, in particular, can pose serious health risks and are unnecessary for most young people.

“I wouldn't recommend them for anybody that fits our target population, which is anyone between the ages of zero and 18,” said Pound, noting one can of energy drink contains more caffeine than the regular type of brewed coffee.

Too much can be deadly, as apparently was the case of a South Carolina teen who collapsed April 26 after downing an energy drink, a large pop, and a cafe latte within a two-hour span.

Davis Cripe had no pre-existing heart condition but likely died from a caffeine-induced heart arrhythmia, said the local coroner.

The Canadian Paediatric Society had no official position on the use of energy and sports drinks at the time, however it had suggested young non-athletes avoid them.

It now explicitly makes the case against both caffeinated energy drinks and non-caffeinated sports drinks among youth, suggesting there are very few who would need such stimulants.

“A lot of people believe they're essential as part of rehydration for sports,” said Pound, adding that doctors routinely should screen for their use.

“But what we're finding is actually they're not—water is ideal for rehydration in sport,” she noted.

“Only in the very specific subset of the population will they be useful, and that's the population of children that will perform very vigorous activity for over an hour or in very hot and humid weather.”

The other danger is mixing energy drinks with alcohol, said Pound, noting those who do so tend to participate in high-risk behaviour such as illicit drug use.

Caffeinated energy drinks claim to boost energy, reduce fatigue, and improve concentration. The amount of caffeine typically exceeds Health Canada's maximum daily intake for kids.

Pound cautioned against side effects, which include difficulty sleeping, increased anxiety, heart rhythm abnormalities, vomiting, and diarrhea.

She also said it's worth considering an even tougher stand against energy drinks, musing on the value of restricting use to adults, like alcohol.

The American Academy of Pediatrics came out against kids and youth using energy drinks in 2011.

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