BY ROSHNI PATEL, M.D.
Associate Medical Director of Urgent Care Services at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston and Hughes Spalding. She is also the Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine within the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine.
Does it feel like you can’t go anywhere without hearing about the latest fad in sports or energy drinks? Some claim to give you more energy throughout the day, lose weight or even prepare you to train for the Olympics.
Several of these types of beverages are strategically marketed toward youth as well, promising extra nutrition, concentration, energy and performance enhancers, to name a few.
But, after glancing over the fancy packaging, you learn that most contain large amounts of sugar, caffeine or ingredients that are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Some of these ingredients include:
Guarana—a source of caffeine thought to aid in weight loss
Taurine—an amino acid thought to enhance caffeine’s effect
Ginseng—a plant believed to have medicinal properties
These kinds of ingredients can be harmful to your child, especially if he is on medication or has a health problem. As a parent, make yourself aware of the ingredients by carefully reading nutrition labels, and teach your children what to look out for.
For some kids, these drinks can cause anxiety attacks, sleep problems, dehydration, upset stomach, jitters, rapid heart rate and headaches. Recent reports also have found sports and energy drinks to even be harmful to your child’s teeth, as they damage the enamel when sipped over long periods of time. Check with your primary care pediatrician to find out if sports and energy drinks are safe for your child.
If taken in moderation, most kids will not experience any side effects from these drinks.
However, there is always a healthier alternative.
Water and milk are among the safest, not only for obvious health reasons, such as hydration and calcium, but they also will save you a few bucks in grocery bills, as they are less expensive than sports and energy drinks. You also may try incorporating more raw fruits and vegetables, and a daily multivitamin to your kid’s diet to provide the same, if not better effects, of sports and energy drinks. Sweetened fruit juice and soda should be consumed in limited quantities, as most are filled with sugar, empty carbohydrates and calories.
Although we can’t always control everything our kids do, we can educate them about nutrition and encourage then to make healthy choices. Visit www.myfamilyhealthspot.org to learn more about healthier options for you and your kids.