Energy drinks and teens

Just when parents have won against the battle of soft drinks, here comes another—energy drinks. The consumption of energy drinks and sports drinks have increased in the last decade. According to a study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health by Hardy et al, 1 in 7 teens are drinking more than two cups of sugary drinks a day. The most popular choice of sugar sweetened beverage amongst teens being energy drinks and sports drinks.

The misleading advertising for energy drinks is what seems to catch their attention. These beverages are advertised for athletes to enhance their performance, university students to maintain focus and reduce fatigue and working professionals for a boost in energy. With these misconceptions in mind, youngsters are consuming a high amount of these caffeinated sugary drinks being unaware of severe health implications that follow.

Consuming two cups of these sugar-sweetened drinks a day is equivalent to 11 teaspoons of sugar which is well above the World Health Organisation guidelines (without taking into consideration sugar intake through other foods). Energy drinks typically contain around 160-300mg caffeine per 500ml serve.

Nutritionist Angela Emmerton from Nutritional Matters says “a young body and brain is not designed to consume this amount of caffeine.” Although temporarily caffeine can overcome tiredness and restore alertness, it is an addictive substance that can have long term effects on the heart and nervous system.

The side effects of ingesting high levels of caffeine are insomnia, nervousness, headache, rapid heart rate, anxiety and difficulty concentrating. Research has indicated that energy drinks might even interfere with a teenager’s brain development if they consume too much of it.

Other health implications are unhealthy weight gain, which then increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart and kidney disease, stroke and cancer.

Teens that consume high levels of energy drinks are also 3x more likely to have oral health problems. Energy drinks are essentially bathing teeth in a highly acidic solution. This can cause enamel to erode, causing sensitivity and decay to teeth.

The hyperactive energy from energy drinks can also cause tooth grinding/clenching which then leads to chipping of enamel or cracks on teeth.

It is therefore important to reduce the intake of energy drinks, increase chewing sugar-free gum and rinse the mouth with water after consumption of these drinks. These habits can increase salivary flow which then helps to naturally neutralise acids in the mouth. It is also important to wait at least 30 mins for mouth to be neutralised before brushing teeth to avoid erosive action on teeth.

Rethink Sugary Drink Campaign is a public health campaign supported by Australian Dental Association, Diabetes Australia, The Cancer Council and other health organisations, aimed to call for awareness by:

  • highlighting the health effects of sugary drinks;
  • adding a levy of 20% to increase prices for such drinks;
  • restrict children’s exposure to marketing of such drinks;
  • restrict sales of sugary drinks at school or sporting events;
  • reduce the availability of sugary drinks at workplaces, health care facilities and other public places; and
  • improve the promotion and access to fluoridated tap water.

At Bite Dental, we are passionate about improving awareness and bringing about change. As Phil McGraw says “Awareness without action is worthless”, it is therefore our responsibility to make better choices for a healthier lifestyle.

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