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article imageOp-Ed: Energy drinks affecting our young

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By Chace Elliott     Sep 21, 2012 in Health
Are we well informed about what our children consume when they are at school? Do they make the right choices and eat what is good for them? Energy drinks are being consumed in schools across the country but does that make it right?
Pop, juice and even water have been the drink of choice for students attending grade school for many, many years. Over the past few years energy drinks have been creeping there way into schools across the nation. Their negative health effects have gone unnoticed to young children who are at their most impressionable age. The caffeine, taurine, sugar and medicinal herbs are not something that young children should be allowed to consume because there is no way that they are able to comprehend the serious effects that they have.
The Eat Right Ontario website says the following about caffeine. “Caffeine is one of the main ingredients in energy drinks. Health Canada has plans to limit the amount of caffeine found in energy drinks to 180 mg per serving. This is equal to the caffeine found in a medium size coffee. Health Canada says that most healthy adults can safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine in a day. The amount of caffeine in energy drinks is more than what is recommended for children. Health Canada says that children under 12 years of age should have less than 85 mg of caffeine per day depending on their age. This means that one energy drink can easily put children over their caffeine limits. Too much caffeine can cause irritability, nervousness and sleeping problems. It is not recommended that children and young teenagers use energy drinks.” Webmd.com says that the amount of caffeine in an 8 oz. Red Bull drink is 67 mg. This puts the average 12 year old dangerously close to their daily limit. Sure people react differently to caffeine, but is that something you want your 12 year old experimenting with? Yet you can still see children of all ages buying these drinks at convenience stores, sometimes by 2 or 3 at a time. They are using what can only be assumed as their parent’s money to buy them, but do the parents realize the effects?
Taurine is an amino acid, meaning that the body produces it in small amounts and the rest of it must come in supplements. Body builders and athletes use supplements like this because it helps to widen the blood vessels meaning that increases the blood flow to muscle tissue. Something like this is not what children need when they are still developing these muscles. According to nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, “the long-term effects of taurine supplementation are not well documented, and heavy taurine users should be cautious about the potential long-term effects of taurine supplementation.” To me this is not something that parents should be willing to let their children experiment with.
What ever happened to the days when parents made healthy lunches for their children? When I was little having a sugary treat was just that, it was a treat. According to information from energyfiend.com, a Rockstar energy drink contains up to 102 grams of sugar compared to merely 39 grams in a Coca-Cola. Combined with the caffeine, taurine and other medicinal herbs, your children are at risk.
Many energy drinks contain herbs like Ginseng and Gingko Biloba; ingredients that are supposed to enhance performance. I don’t think there is a child that really needs to enhance their performance in any way. Scientific studies on what these natural herbs actually do to the human body are not substantial, but that does make them safe either.
We all know that young children are very impressionable and that peer pressure can be over whelming in schools. Banning the purchase of energy drinks if you are under a certain age is one thing but banning them in schools is another. Students are able to do many things in school that their parents are not aware of, buying and consuming energy drinks is one of them. What happens after school and at home is something that parents should control themselves.
Energy drinks should be banned in school though. A CBC news article outlining how energy drinks have been banned from a Montreal high school. This school went as far as asking local merchants not to sell energy drinks to students during school hours and they say that “Since the nearby stores agreed to stop selling the drinks to students, Ciarlo says fewer of them have been expelled.’
Of course you will always have people who do not agree with these tactics but you have to be able to do what is best for the majority. Not everyone is well informed about the effects that these drinks have and they are most often those who oppose such actions
It is up to the parents of students to become informed and make the best choices for today’s students. Do we want a generation that slips by in school, all hyped-up on caffeine and sugar or do we want to help nurture a generation that is well informed, healthy and conscious about what they are putting into their bodies?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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