Video: Energy drinks may cause diabetes, seizures

  1. Transcript of: Energy drinks may cause diabetes, seizures

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: Back at 7:45. This morning on TODAY'S HEALTH , are energy drinks harmful to kids? The American Academy of Pediatrics is out with a new article today looking at the potential dangers adolescents could face by consuming these very popular caffeine -loaded drinks. NBC 's chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman is here with details. Nancy , good morning to you.

    Dr. NANCY SNYDERMAN reporting: Hi, Meredith.

    VIEIRA: So this article looks at the possible effects of these drinks on children , adolescents and young adults.

    SNYDERMAN: Right.

    VIEIRA: What did it find?

    SNYDERMAN: Well, it takes to issue whether these are supplements and dietary supplements at all and basically says, you know, they're not.

    VIEIRA: That's what they claim to be.

    SNYDERMAN: That's right . So this is a lead article in the Journal of Pediatrics that says buyer beware, that there's a real concern that more kids are taking these than not. It's a big portion of the soft drink , if you will, industry. And that for certain children , children with cardiovascular diseases, children with diabetes, some children who may be taking neuropsychiatric medications, that the stimulants in these and the additives in these can affect any of the children who might have this. Now they're just really right now cutting out that group of children , but what they're also saying is we don't know the effect on otherwise healthy children because there are really no standards for what are safe amounts and what are not safe amounts.

    Source: Journal of Pediatrics

    VIEIRA: Well, what we're talking about is the amount of caffeine in the drinks or?

    SNYDERMAN: The amount of caffeine is the number one issue. But then if you laundry list the number of things you see on the labels, most of us have never even heard of them. Things like guanine, carnitine, taurine. Some of these are stimulants and what they're saying is you have to, have to, have to, whether you're an adolescent or an adult, flip that can over and read what's in it. You and I might be concerned about the amount of caffeine our already insomniac kids have, but there are other things in here that can add as extra stimulants and can really make it even a bigger deal.

    VIEIRA: And some of those ingredients have caffeine in them, as well, but that's not listed on the -- on the label.

    SNYDERMAN: Correct. So there's a layered on effect of some of these -- some of these elements.

    VIEIRA: And because this is not a food, the FDA cannot regulate how much caffeine is in here.

    SNYDERMAN: Well, this is the slippery slope.

    VIEIRA: It can't set a limit.

    SNYDERMAN: So they are sort of marketed as supplements, dietary supplements . But so that all sort of gets them out of that FDA coverage aspect. Most people see them sort of a soft drinks , so the FDA sort of loosely watches them. I think it's sort of that black hole of what the FDA does. It doesn't frankly have enough punch to govern. And it really now has pitted pediatricians, the Beverage Association , people who market them and people who consume them all at sort of various, you know, points around this whole conversation.

    VIEIRA: Yeah, let's bring in the Beverage Association .

    SNYDERMAN: Yeah.

    VIEIRA: Because the article claims 30 to 50 percent of adolescents consume these energy drinks .

    SNYDERMAN: Right.

    VIEIRA: The ABA disagrees.

    SNYDERMAN: Right.

    VIEIRA: They argue that children and teens are not large consumers. They say, and this is quote now, "Total caffeine consumption from energy drinks among preteens is nearly zero. And caffeine consumption from energy drinks for children and teens on average is far less than even one can of an energy drink per day."

    SNYDERMAN: Well...

    VIEIRA: There's a disparity from what...

    SNYDERMAN: So I think here's where you have to say the pediatricians and the ABA probably have soft numbers of both sides. We don't know the number of preteens who pick up one of these things at the check-out counter and take them. But the caffeine issue is for real. Most of these will have about, equivalent to maybe...

    VIEIRA: Eight ounces of coffee, right?

    Caffeine Energy Drink 70-80mg Coffee 95-200mg Soda 15-36mg

    Source: Mayo Clinic

    SNYDERMAN: Yeah. Eight ounces of coffee or some of them can have five times the amount of a soft drink , so if you look at this, you'll see that the amount of caffeine in an energy drink may only be 70 milligrams and a cup of coffee may be the same. But if you -- do you want your kids at 10:00 at night to have the amount of caffeine that you or I would have in the morning? A lot of kids will have these multitude of times and some teenagers and college kids are also taking these and mixing them with alcohol because they sort of like that taste. We've already had this conversation before that mixing caffeine and alcohol together is not smart in any sort.

    VIEIRA: So word to parents?

    SNYDERMAN: Word to parents is...

    VIEIRA: Tell your kids -- say...

    SNYDERMAN: ...have this conversation. I mean, I had this conversation with my 16-year-old son Charlie last weekend. This is the real deal . This is like taking high octane whatever. It doesn't give you, necessarily, energy, but it makes you jittery, gives you a caffeine hit. And turn that label over and be a smart consumer and figure out what this stuff is. And if you have a child in any one of those problem groups, that's a conversation you need to have today.

    VIEIRA: All right. Dr. Nancy Snyderman , thank you so much .

Image: Dakota Sailor
Roger Nomer  /  AP
Dakota Sailor of Carl Junction, Mo., suffered a seizure after consuming several Nos energy drinks.
By
updated 2/14/2011 9:47:01 AM ET 2011-02-14T14:47:01

Energy drinks are under-studied, overused and can be dangerous for children and teens, warns a report by doctors who say kids shouldn't use the popular products.

The potential harms, caused mostly by too much caffeine or similar ingredients, include heart palpitations, seizures, strokes and even sudden death, the authors write in the medical journal Pediatrics. They reviewed data from the government and interest groups, scientific literature, case reports and articles in popular and trade media.

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Dakota Sailor, 18, a high school senior in Carl Junction, Mo., says risks linked with energy drinks aren't just hype.

Sailor had a seizure and was hospitalized for five days last year after drinking two large Nos energy drinks — a brand he'd never tried before. He said his doctor thinks caffeine or caffeine-like ingredients may have been to blame.

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The report says some cans have four to five times more caffeine than soda, and Sailor said some kids he knows "drink four or five of them a day. That's just dumb."

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Sailor has sworn off the drinks and thinks other kids should, too.

The report's authors want pediatricians to routinely ask patients and their parents about energy drink use and to advise against drinking them.

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"We would discourage the routine use" by children and teens, said Dr. Steven Lipshultz, pediatrics chairman at the University of Miami's medical school. He wrote the report with colleagues from that center.

The report says energy drinks often contain ingredients that can enhance the jittery effects of caffeine or that can have other side effects including nausea and diarrhea. It says they should be regulated as stringently as tobacco, alcohol and prescription medicines.

"For most children, adolescents, and young adults, safe levels of consumption have not been established," the report said.

Tracking side effects, overdoses
Introduced more than 20 years ago, energy drinks are the fastest growing U.S. beverage market; 2011 sales are expected to top $9 billion, the report said. It cites research suggesting that about one-third of teens and young adults regularly consume energy drinks. Yet research is lacking on risk from long-term use and effects in kids — especially those with medical conditions that may increase the dangers, the report said.

The report comes amid a crackdown on energy drinks containing alcohol and caffeine, including recent Food and Drug Administration warning letters to manufacturers and bans in several states because of alcohol overdoses.

The report focuses on nonalcoholic drinks but emphasizes that drinking them along with alcohol is dangerous.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers adopted codes late last year to start tracking energy drink overdoses and side effects nationwide; 677 cases occurred from October through December; so far, 331 have been reported this year.

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Most 2011 cases involved children and teens. Of the more than 300 energy drink poisonings this year, a quarter of them involved kids younger than 6, according to a data chart from the poison control group.

That's a tiny fraction of the more than 2 million poisonings from other substances reported to the group each year. But the chart's list of reported energy drink-related symptoms is lengthy, including seizures, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, chest pain, high blood pressure and irritability, but no deaths.

Monday's paper doesn't quantify drink-related complications or deaths. It cites other reports on a few deaths in Europe of teens or young adults who mixed the drinks with alcohol, or who had conditions like epilepsy that may have increased the risks.

Maureen Storey, senior vice president of science policy at the American Beverage Association, an industry group, said the report "does nothing more than perpetuate misinformation" about energy drinks.

Many of the drinks contain much less caffeine than coffee from popular coffeehouses, and caffeine amounts are listed on many of the products, she said in a written statement.

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Caffeine is safe, but those who are sensitive to it can check the labels, she said.

A clinical report on energy drinks is expected soon from the American Academy of Pediatrics that may include guidelines for doctors.

Dr. Marcie Schneider, an adolescent medicine specialist in Greenwich, Connecticut, and member of the academy's nutrition committee, praised Monday's report for raising awareness about the risks.

"These drinks have no benefit, no place in the diet of kids," Schneider said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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