The dangers of energy drinks

Energy drinks have been getting a lot of press these days – and with their growing popularity in children and teenagers, parents are questioning the safety of these beverages.

We received this question from a viewer:

Q: My 14-year-old son thinks he needs an energy drink like Monster or Red Bull to workout. Are these harmful for him? And if they are, do you know a good substitute?

A: Energy drinks have caffeine in them, which is a diuretic – so if your son is taking them to work out, he needs to be careful that he does not get dehydrated. These drinks have about the same amount of caffeine per serving as a cup of coffee.

And – what your son may not realize is that many of these drinks actually contain about 2 or 3 servings, he said.

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Studies have shown that children who consume moderate amounts of caffeine before physical activity can have elevated blood pressure.

For more info on the topic, I talked to my good friend, Dr. Robert Tozzi, chief of pediatric cardiology at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.

“Energy drinks are not safe, and do not improve performance,” Tozzi said. “Water is your best fluid in addition to a well-balanced diet. The well-balanced diet should be high in dark, green vegetables, because that’s your best source of magnesium, which is a muscle relaxant, so it will decrease muscle spasm and cramping.”

Tozzi said drinking orange juice or eating orange slices and salted pretzels –  with water – would be another alternative. The benefit of orange juice is that it will improve blood flow to the muscles – something that is not available in any energy drink, Tozzi added.

But caffeine is not the only dangerous ingredient to look out for – energy drinks are also packed with large amounts of sugar and herbal stimulants.
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