Thursday, February 17, 2011

Worried Sick

I hate energy drinks. I have never personally drank one so it's not the flavor I'm speaking of. It just bugs me how addicting they seem to be and the youth of our country are drinking too many of them. In the past few weeks, I've heard several reports of serious health issues in teens which have been linked to over consumption of the highly caffeinated beverages they are drinking. It scares me to death.

While PJ was on deployment this past year, he emailed me in a panic one night because his heart was acting funny and really hurting him. I was still living with my brother at the time, so I asked his wife, Michele, who is a nurse what could be causing it. She immediately asked if he was drinking a lot of caffeine. I emailed him back, and sure enough he had been living on these energy drinks. As soon as he stopped drinking them, his heart started acting normally again.

This scares me to death! Mainly because my boy has not learned his lesson and continues to consume these drinks even though he still occasionally feels the heart pains.  He is addicted to the caffeine and it's not unreasonable to assume if he doesn't gain control over his addiction, it could lead to serious medical problems and even death.

I am angry at the companies who produce these products. It seems the containers are getting bigger, and though they are labeled as several servings, they know as well as I do, our children are drinking them as one. The ingredients offer no nutritional benefit and are over time, if consumed in large quanities, are damaging. It is also clear the market is aimed directly at our youth.

I realize just as the fast food industry cannot be completely blamed for our obesity problem, neither can the beverage companies be soley blamed for the unnecessary health risks our youth are facing due to consumption. The individual as well as parents are also responsible.  However, I do feel they carry much of the blame as they knowingly produce and package their product in such a way that it not only entices our kids to purchase, but they then become addicted which encourages further purchase. The companies make money while holding no responsibility for the health risks they pose.

According to an article by The Dartmouth, a study published by researchers at John Hopkins University, voiced concerns "that unregulated consumption of energy drinks will increase the prevalence of caffeine-related disorders. These complications include caffeine intoxication, dependence and withdrawal. Caffeine intoxication, which results from excess consumption of caffeine, can cause anxiety, increased heart rate, vomiting and death."

I am guilty of frequently purchasing these drinks for my boys when they were still teenagers living at home. I wasn't aware, due to my own ignorance, of the health risks I was imposing on my boys. I simply wanted to make them happy. I share in my son's 'additction' to the caffeine his having such a hard time leaving behind. He is no longer a teen and has to be completely responsible for his own choice to ignore the health risks to drink them.

I worry sick he is permanently damaging his heart, and I was a party to it. Please, if you have teens consuming these drinks, educate yourself on the risks as well as monitor their consumption. It's just not worth having our kids risk their health. They should have their whole lives ahead of them without worry of health risk...especially because of a drink.

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