Energy drinks could result in heart and brain problems in young children, according to a new study.
National Poison Data System health records from 2010 to 2013 were examined by researchers. Calls recorded by 55 centers were used as raw data in the study, involving all levels of exposure, as well as suspected consumption of toxins.
Around 40 percent of the 5,156 cases of energy drink exposure reported by American parents and caregivers was unintentional. Significant exposure was seen in 19 percent of energy unadulterated drinks, as well as 42 percent of cases where alcohol had been mixed with the beverage.
Researchers examining incidents of high exposure across all age groups reported neurological effects, including seizures, in 55 percent of cases. Around 57 percent of sufferers experienced heart irregularities.
"Energy drinks have no place in pediatric diets. And anyone with underlying cardiac, neurologic or other significant medical conditions should check with their healthcare provider to make sure it's safe to consume energy drinks," Steven Lipshultz of Wayne State University and the Children's Hospital of Michigan, said.
Over 40 percent of all calls to poison control centers around the United States involving energy drinks were for children age six or younger.
Energy drinks, on their own, do not contain alcohol, as the combination was banned for sale by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010. The beverages do usually possess large quantities of caffeine, amino acids and herbs. Some brands contain up to 400 milligrams (mg) of the popular stimulant, compared to around 150 in a typical cup of coffee. That is high enough to result in mild caffeine poisoning in some adults. Adolescents can start to feel toxic effects at levels as low as 100 milligrams.
"Energy drinks may contain pharmaceutical-grade caffeine and additional caffeine from natural sources that may cause the heart to race and blood pressure to increase. Energy drinks with multiple caffeine sources were tied to a higher rate of side effects, typically involving the nervous, digestive or cardiovascular systems," the American Heart Association reported.
Lipshultz became interested in energy drinks after treating a number of children who exhibited toxic symptoms after consuming the beverages.
Many other ingredients commonly found in energy drinks have never been tested for safety when consumed by children, especially in combination with each other. Emergency room visits were not recorded in the study, nor was any information available on cases where poison control centers were not notified.
Study of the effect of energy drinks on young children was delivered at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2014.