There’s been a lot of focus on energy drinks in the press lately and that is partly because they continue to be targeted at children. The marketing campaigns are designed to make them appeal to children through their associated lifestyle benefits. The big brands continue to sponsor events that are aspirational for young children and therefore these drinks are deemed “cool” and desirable. It raises the question though “how much caffeine do they contain and why is this so bad for kids?”

How much caffeine?

Firstly let’s compare some of the common caffeinated drinks:

Brewed coffee (per cup) – 90mg caffeine

Instant Coffee (cup) – 60mg

Tea (cup) – 40mg

Cola (can) – 70mg

Energy Drink (can) – 80mg up to 247mg

Chocolate Bar (50g bar) – 10mg

Hot Chocolate (cup) – 5mg

You can see that energy drinks are the worst offenders in this list.

What happens when children consume too much caffeine? 

Common side effects of too much caffeine include jitteriness, nervousness, an upset stomach, increased blood pressure and heart rate, problems with sleeping and concentrating. Don’t forget that caffeine can also interfere with some medications. Ideally, no child under 12 should consume caffeine. After all it is a drug. Sadly, in recent years doctors have seen a rise in the number of cases of caffeine overdose which can happen surprisingly easily in children. Part of the problem is how quickly their small bodies can ingest these drinks. If you think about it when an adult consumes a cup of coffee, due to its heat, they usually sip it over a longer period. An energy drink is consumed quickly, the sweet taste lending itself to being used as a quick boost and to rehydrate.

What about the sugar content?

Let us not forget that in addition to caffeine these drinks also pack a sugar-punch too. In fact the most well known brand of energy drink, the one that “gives you wings”, also gives you a massive sugar hit with 39g of sugar in the larger size can. That’s a whopping 9.75 teaspoonful’s. The smaller size can contains nearly 7 teaspoonful’s. When we think that the World Health Organisation is recommending that children consume no more than 4-6 teaspoonful’s of sugar in total per day the sugar from one energy drink really does blow things out of the water.

Speak to your children

It’s really important that children understand how caffeine may affect them and to consider that it affects people differently. We all know someone who drinks 5-10 coffees per day and claims to feel absolutely fine and sleep well at night. I know I can’t sleep well if I have had too many coffees or even one too late in the day. We are all different. Yet another one of those “don’t follow your peers” conversations to have with your children!

Yet, I would also advise any parent to warn their children of the dangers of these so called energy drinks. The caffeine highs followed by the caffeine lows, the blood sugar highs and blood sugar lows. It’s simply not worth it. There are easier, healthier ways to look cool.