Monday, May 12, 2008

My child has started drinking “energy drinks” such as Red Bull. Is this a concern?

Energy drinks such as Red Bull are marketed as providing improved energy, concentration and athletic performance. Ingredients in these drinks include substances such as caffeine, taurine (an amino acid, one of the building blocks of protein) and glucuronolactone (a carbohydrate).

Energy drinks contain similar amounts of caffeine as a cup of coffee and approximately three times the amount of caffeine as a similar amount of cola type soft drink. For example, one can of Red Bull contains 80 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. Health Canada recommends that children 10-12 years of age limit their caffeine intake to no more than 85 mg per day.

Energy drinks should not be confused with sports drinks such as Gatorade, which can be useful to re-hydrate the body after engaging in intense workouts lasting longer than an hour. Energy drinks are not thirst quenchers and may actually lead to dehydration.

Health Canada has reports of incidences of adverse reactions such as electrolyte disturbances, nausea and vomiting and heart irregularities involving energy drinks. The incidents involved improper use of energy drinks such as drinking them with alcohol or drinking them in greater quantities than recommended.

If you choose to use an energy drink be aware of the following:
-the amount of caffeine in one can of Red Bull is approximately the daily limit of caffeine for a pre-teen
-the label of Red Bull suggests a limit of no more than two cans per day
-the label of Red Bull reads Not recommended for children
-Health Canada does not recommend mixing Red Bull with alcohol
-there are many other energy drinks on the market which have not been evaluated by Health Canada; it is wise to read the label and contact a health professional if you have questions.

Bottom Line: If you are looking for improved energy and concentration then consider the benefits of regular meals and snacks and adequate consumption of water throughout the day. Adequate sleep and regular activity are also important.

Reference: Health Canada. It’s Your Health Fact-sheet “Safe Use of Energy Drinks”. June 2005.

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