Energy drinks could lead to dangerous side effects in kids: report

Cans of energy drinks are displayed in a store in San Diego, California. (Photo credit: EARL S.CRYER/AFP/Getty Images). EARL S.CRYER/AFP/Getty Images

TORONTO – Kids, six years old and younger, have turned up in hospital with abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and dangerously high blood pressure. The culprit? Energy drinks they may have consumed accidentally, a new U.S. report is warning.

U.S. poison control centres have received more than 5,100 calls about energy drinks and 40 per cent of the time, it’s kids encountering heart problems and neurological symptoms after consuming energy drinks unintentionally.

“Energy drinks have no place in pediatric diets. And anyone with underlying cardiac, neurologic or other significant medical conditions should check with their health care provider to make sure it’s safe to consume energy drinks,” Dr. Steven Lipshultz, of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, said.

He’s the lead author of findings presented Monday at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions event.

READ MORE: Caffeine common for kids, even preschoolers

Researchers scoured the poison control records between October 2010 and September 2013. They found that in 42 per cent of the cases, kids were even consuming energy drinks mixed with alcohol.

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Fifty per cent of the kids faced heart rhythm issues and even seizures.

Energy drinks contain pharmaceutical-grade caffeine and additional caffeine from natural sources that may explain why the kids’ hearts race and their blood pressure levels climb.

If the energy drinks had multiple sources of caffeine, the risk of side effects increased too.

Some energy drinks contain up to 400 milligrams of caffeine in a can or bottle – a cup of coffee contains about 150 mgs in comparison.

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This isn’t the first study to warn about the hazards of energy drinks. Earlier this summer, French researchers said that even in adults, overconsumption can lead to angina, cardiac arrhythmia and even “sudden death.”

In that case, the researchers said that a typical 0.25 litre can is the equivalent of two espressos.

“Caffeine is one of the most potent agonists of the ryanodine receptors and leads to a massive release of calcium within cardiac cells. This can cause arrhythmias, but also has effects on the heart’s abilities to contract and to use oxygen,” the researchers warned.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against caffeine consumption for children and teens because of potentially harmful effects from the mild stimulant, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure, and worsening anxiety in those with anxiety disorders.

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READ MORE: More than 4 cups of coffee a day could put your health at risk, study suggests

This weekend, the World Health Organization (WHO) called energy drinks a “danger to public health,” especially among young people.

WHO health officials are concerned with the beverage because it can be consumed quickly, unlike hot coffee, and can lead to caffeine intoxication.

Aside from heart palpitations, the WHO review pointed to nausea, vomiting, convulsions and even death, which has been reported in the U.S., Sweden and Australia.

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It’s calling for measures, such as establishing a limit on how much caffeine is allowed in a single serving, enforcing tighter labelling and creating restrictions for marketing the energy drink industry to youth.

– With a file from the Associated Press