Energy drinks are delivering more than just caffeine to kids - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Energy drinks are delivering more than just caffeine to kids

MIAMI (NBC) - New research from the University of Miami reports that nearly 5,500 Americans overdosed on caffeine in 2007. Of those, 48 percent were younger than 19.

"We know for a fact that children and teens do not tolerate caffeine as well as adults do," said Dr. Mary Claire O'Brien with Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

What's also known is that teens account for half of the energy drink market.

Some of those cases may have been a combination of energy drinks and alcohol, but experts say a jolt of caffeine alone is enough to cause symptoms of an overdose in young people.

"Their heart is beating faster, fluttering, palpitating, they may feel nauseous, they may feel light headed," said Dr. Steven Lipshultz of the University of Miami.

Some teens are more susceptible than others.

"Children who may have heart diseases, they may have diabetes, they may have seizure disorders, they may have ADHD," Lipshultz said.

Energy drinks aren't the only way kids get caffeine; they are also big soda drinkers.

But there's a big difference between the two.

"The amount of caffeine in soda is regulated, the amount of caffeine in energy drinks is not," O'Brien said.

The American Beverage Association issued a statement saying the FDA has deemed caffeine safe, and that "most mainstream energy drinks actually contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee."

But experts say the root of the problem is that many teens don't have just one, and that the drinks are marketed to a younger population.

That will be a topic of debate, and more research, for years to come.

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