Kids consume far too many sugary energy drinks, with unfortunate consequences

Monster energy drinks
CC BY 2.0 Mike Mozart

A new study reveals the negative effect that sugary beverages and energy drinks have on behavior and academic performance in school-age children.

A study just published in the journal Academic Pediatrics reveals that school-age children in the United States consume far more heavily sweetened beverages and energy drinks than they should, and that these drinks have a negative impact on their behavior and academic performance by increasing hyperactivity.

The study, led by the Yale School of Public Health, assessed 1,649 middle school students, the average age of which was 12.4 years, who were randomly selected from a single urban school district in Connecticut. Researchers found that these students consumed on average two sugary drinks per day. Boys were more likely to consume energy drinks than girls, and black and Hispanic students were more likely to consume the drinks than their white peers.

These numbers are very high, when you consider that each of these popular sugar-sweetened beverages and energy drinks contains approximately 40 grams of sugar. Health guidelines, by contrast, recommend that children consume no more than 21 to 33 grams of sugar in total on a daily basis. The energy drinks also contain caffeine.

The results, sadly, are unsurprising. Consumption of these drinks increased inattention and hyperactivity by 66 percent. This goes along with previous research, which has found a strong correlation between the consumption of sugary beverages and relational problems among students, as well as making kids more accident-prone. Sugary beverages are the leading cause of added calories in children’s diets, and that’s a serious problem in a country where 1 out of 3 school-age children is already overweight or obese.

added sugar©

Lead study author Jeannette Ickovics directs attention to the parents of these children, who should be taking greater care to prevent and educate their kids about the dangers of consuming these beverages in such high volume:

“Our results support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that parents should limit consumption of sweetened beverages and that children should not consume any energy drinks.”

I suspect that teachers and parents would not accept 12-year-olds bringing coffee or alcoholic beverages into the classroom, so why are heavily sweetened beverages and energy drinks treated any differently? All are damaging to child development in different ways, and sugar wreaks havoc on the human body in ways that science is just beginning to understand – from overtaxing the liver (just like alcohol) to triggering serious chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease. When a parent fails to monitor and limit their child’s intake of sugary beverages, it is tantamount to neglect, with potentially life-threatening consequences.

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