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Energy drinks and adolescents: what’s the harm?

Jennifer L. Harris, Christina R. Munsell
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuu061 247-257 First published online: 24 March 2015


Concerns about potential dangers from energy drink consumption by youth have been raised by health experts, whereas energy drink manufacturers claim these products are safe and suitable for marketing to teens. This review summarizes the evidence used to support both sides of the debate. Unlike most beverage categories, sales of energy drinks and other highly caffeinated products continue to grow, and marketing is often targeted to youth under the age of 18 years. These products pose a risk of caffeine toxicity when consumed by some young people, and there is evidence of other troubling physiological and behavioral effects associated with their consumption by youth. The US Food and Drug Administration has indicated it will reexamine the safety of caffeine in the food supply; however, more research is needed to better understand youth consumption of energy drinks and caffeine in general, as well as the long-term effects on health. Meanwhile, policymakers and physician groups have called on energy drink manufacturers to take voluntary action to reduce the potential harm of their products, including placing restrictions on marketing to youth under the age of 18 years. Additional regulatory and legislative options are also being discussed.

  • adolescent health
  • caffeine
  • energy drinks
  • marketing
  • nutrition policy.
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