Containing caffeine and other invigorating ingredients, these products intended for adults are supposed to provide a boost to the body. However, due to the fashion effect, children and adolescents do not hesitate to consume it. Do these energy drinks have any nutritional benefits? Can they be drunk by young people without danger? What are the possible health risks? We take stock.
Let’s start by dispelling a preconceived idea: an energy drink, also called “Energy Drink” (such as Red Bull, Rockstar, Rez Energy Drink, Dark Dog or Monster Energy), is not based on any evidence or real evaluation! “It is a marketing term that has no nutritional or regulatory value.“, assures Florence Foucaut, dietician-nutritionist. According to ANSES, it is a drink which “presents itself as having stimulating properties both physically and intellectually”. A survey carried out by the Agency in 2013 indicates that in Europe, 32% of consumers of so-called energy drinks consume them during festive occasions (bars, nightclubs, concerts, etc.), 41% in connection with a sporting activity and 16% mixed with alcohol1.
What does an energy drink contain?
These drinks, most often carbonated, presented in can form, aim to provide us with extra energy. To do this, they generally contain substances such as caffeine, taurine (a sulfur-containing amino acid) and D-glucuronolactone (a chemical component naturally produced by the liver), three active ingredients with invigorating health claims.
Added to these substances are sugar, most often glucose-fructose, sucrose or sweeteners, vitamins (in particular group B vitamins, such as inositol or vitamin B7) and extracts of energizing plants ( ginseng and guarana mainly). All these ingredients act in synergy to give a boost to the body, in order to chase away fatigue by increasing the state of alertness, both physical and intellectual. But the quantities are sometimes mind-blowing! ANSES indicates that “the consumption of a standard can (250 ml) of so-called energy drinks provides on average the caffeine equivalent of two “espresso” coffees (50 ml) or more than two cans of cola sodas (330 ml)“.
Dr. Frédéric Maton, sports doctor with the Irbms and responsible for a survey on the consumption of energy drinks in Europe, even specifies that “in a can, vitamin B, which is present in a quantity at the limit of safety, and as for taurine, we find the equivalent of six days of normal consumption“. As for the taste, it is generally synthetic (cherry, strawberry, lemon, etc.). Their price varies around €2 per can.
Do not confuse energy drink and energy drink
These products are not to be confused with energy drinks. Health-oriented, these are intended for athletes and contain specific active ingredients to meet the needs of athletes during their training or during recovery phases. “A can of this drink contains mainly water, sugar (their carbohydrate content is around 5 g to 14 g per 240 mL serving), minerals such as sodium, potassium and magnesium (which also called electrolytes) as well as vitamins (most often vitamins C and B)”, specifies Florence Foucaut. These drinks help you get back into shape, restore mineral stocks lost through sweating and glycogen stocks. In terms of nutrition, their consumption is part of a balanced diet.
Finally, these are also not drinks to be recommended to keep in shape under the pretext that caffeine burns fat because the sugar intake is such that these products, consumed in quantity, rather contribute to overweight.
Can energy drinks be consumed by a child?
An energy drink is not recommended at all for children or adolescents, mainly because of the toning substances they contain, especially caffeine, taurine, sugar and herbs. Only the fashion effect means that these “Energy Drinks” like Red Bull or Monster Energy, attract a lot of younger people. The opinion of our expert is final. “On average, in these drinks, the amount of caffeine is between 50 mg to more than 200 mg per container.t, avise Florence Foucaut. A single bottle can therefore contain more caffeine than the maximum safe daily intake for children and adolescents. However, the body of young people can be very vulnerable to the adverse effects of these drinks, much more than that of adults, in particular because of their lower weight. This can therefore lead to deleterious effects on their health such as excitement, anxiety and sleep disorders.. As for the high sugar content of these drinks, it can promote overweight and obesity.
What is the maximum amount of caffeine my child can consume?
Although caffeine is not an active ingredient recommended for children, the fact remains that it is present in many foods, notably chocolate. This is why the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has established the maximum authorized quantity based on age. For healthy children and adolescents, the body’s opinion is not to exceed a maximum individual dose of caffeine of 3 mg/kg of body weight per day, from all sources combined.2.
What are the side effects of drinking energy drinks?
The monitoring of energy drinks by ANSES, as part of the nutrivigilance system established in 2008, has made it possible to identify more than 200 side effects linked to the consumption of these products. Among these dangers are:
- Cardiovascular disorders : feelings of tightness or chest pain, increased heart rate, tachycardia, hypertension, rhythm disturbances leading to cardiac arrest, etc.;
- Psycho-behavioral or neurological disorders : irritability, nervousness, anxiety, even panic attacks, hallucinations, epilepsy, impulsive behavior, insomnia, etc.;
- Other disorders. Headaches, vomiting, diarrhea.
In 2012, the Agency reported two cases of death from heart attacks (in 2011 and 2012) attributable to excessive consumption of these “Energy Drinks”.
In question ? Caffeine, present in quantity in these products, because this active ingredient is not so harmless and can, when consumed in excess or by a person with fragile health, cause numerous adverse effects (insomnia, tachycardia, anxiety, etc.). ). “The combined consumption of several sources of caffeine in the same day can lead to a high intake of this substance. And the more sensitive the consumer is to this ingredient, the more the harmful effects will be felt.warns the dietitian.
Furthermore, these drinks increase the risk of developing overweight, obesity and dental caries due to the presence of sugar in their composition.
What are the dangers of consuming these energy drinks?
In addition to the side effects mentioned, the consumption of these drinks such as Red Bull or Monster Energy is not without health risks. The main danger is when these products are combined with alcohol intake. Why such a mixture? “Because this cocktail helps counter the sedative effect of alcohol with the stimulating effect of caffeine.“, specifies our expert. However, according to ANSES, “the joint consumption of so-called energy drinks and alcohol promotes risky situations due to an overestimation by the person of his abilities, which can lead him to continue his consumption of alcohol and increase risk taking.. Among them, violence or even drunk driving.
These drinks, which are supposed to provide energy, are also sometimes consumed in a sporting context. They provide no training or health benefits. “On the contrary, they increase water loss, promoting dehydration, as well as the loss of mineral salts, which increases the risk of injury during training and makes you more sensitive to heat.assure Florence Foucaut.
At the last American Heart Association conference, a doctor revealed that just one of these cans would be enough to prevent blood vessels from dilating properly. However, when we play sports, the brain, muscles and heart need a surplus of oxygen, which the body provides by dilating its vessels. If he can no longer do it, the risk of heart and brain accidents is great…
This is how ANSES, in an opinion, established recommendations for people wishing to drink these energy drinks. The Agency recommends “to be particularly vigilant with regard to caffeine intake, particularly via so-called energy drinks, for certain consumers, in particular: pregnant and breastfeeding women, children and adolescents, people sensitive to the effects of caffeine or presenting certain pathologies, notably certain cardiovascular, psychiatric and neurological disorders, renal failure and severe liver diseases“
My teenager consumes these energy drinks. Is that bad ?
For all the risks involved, these drinks should not be part of your daily diet. However, it is very difficult to be behind your child’s every action. It is also important to inform them of the risks to their health and to remind them: