Attend any swim meet or other youth athletic event these days and you’re likely to see parents doling out to their elementary-aged kiddos all sorts of energy chews, drinks and other “soft” performance boosters. Whatever happened to water, or maybe Emergen-C? As a mom and health editor, this seems to be a potentially dangerous growing trend.
Researchers at the University at Buffalo recently announced study results showing that tweens and teens (ages 12–17) tend to develop a preference for caffeinated drinks. Scientists gave half the students unfamiliar drink flavors with caffeine (unknowingly) added. Among that group, students rated the caffeinated version more highly each of the four days they tasted it. Researchers think the teens enjoyed not just the flavor but the feelings caffeine gave them.
The Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics also recently published a position paper on sports and energy drinks (like Red Bull and Monster) in the diets of children and adolescents. They determined that the use of sports drinks is generally unnecessary, and that stimulant-containing energy drinks have no place in young people’s diets.
No viable studies have been done on the effects of caffeine on kids. Marketers should be limited in their forays in this area.
Tip: Even energy bars should be used with knowledge and caution. Break an adult-sized protein bar in half for a child and have them drink lots of water to help digest it. Kid-aimed bars like ClifKids are generally a better option.