One big change in the U.S. diet is … surprise … good news: Sales of full-calorie sodas have dropped dramatically, and the switch has helped to fight obesity among kids. But energy-drinks, marketed to men and boys, have beat the trend, and are ever-more popular.
Thirty-one per cent of kids between the ages of 12 and 17 now regularly consume energy drinks — and that percentage goes higher through the age of 24, market research indicates.That’s bad news, since consuming just 16 ounces of an energy drink elevates blood pressure and stress hormones in young, healthy adults, according to a 2015 study by the American Heart Association.
If you want your kids to avoid sugar, Monster is a monster … along with Red Bull and Rockstar. For example, a “Monster Unleaded,” without caffeine, has more sugar per ounce than a Classic Coke or 7UP. A “Monster Ripper” has the same sugar per ounce as a 7UP, and 160 mg of caffeine, similar to a standard 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee, according to caffeineinformer.com.
The latest products, Monster Energy Gaming and G Fuel, promise to help boys do better at video games. Gamma Labs, which makes G Fuel, has sponsored a group of professionals who play “Call of Duty,” a war game.
A 14-year-old boy who fueled a marathon gaming session with energy drinks suffered kidney failure last year and had to be rushed to the hospital. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association both say that energy-drinks shouldn’t be marketed to children.
When these boys grow up, marketers hope they’ll stick with energy drinks to fuel them in other manly tasks like say, driving on too little sleep. One small study found that younger adult men who believed in “traditional masculinity ideology” were also more likely to associate manliness with energy drinks. These men drank more of the stuff and also had more sleep problems.
The men answered questionnaires stating whether they agreed with statements such as “A man should prefer watching action movies to reading romantic novels” and “If I consume energy drinks, I will perform better.” Advertising has linked energy drinks to athletic superstars. Monster, for example, sponsors Conor McGregor, of Ireland, a mixed-martial-arts champion who trained while working as a plumber, and Malibu, Fla., native Tom Schaar, who was only 12 when he achieved a 1080-degree airborne rotation on a skateboard.
“Energy drinks needed to establish a base with a particular group and then expand from there,” according to Darren Seifer, an analyst at the market-research firm N.P.D. Group. “So the message was, ‘Hey young guys, put down those soft drinks, you want this.’ ”
Gatorade and Mountain Dew also made a pitch to young men by associating the drinks with extreme sports.
The advertising helps kids and teens confuse energy drinks with sport drinks. Make sure yours know the difference: Sport drinks contain minerals and electrolytes to replace water and electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise. Even sports drinks usually aren’t necessary for a kid workout. Energy drinks also contain stimulants, typically caffeine, guarana, or taurine.
But guys in their twenties spend more time driving than skate-boarding, and young men are especially prone to falling asleep at the wheel. More than 10 percent of Americans say they’ve fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past year. So it makes sense that you see big selections of caffeinated energy drinks in convenience stores along highways. It’s easier to slug down a small can some energy drink than slurp hot coffee from a cup you’re holding with one hand.
If you’re using energy drinks to help you drive, note that caffeine in liquid form takes 20 minutes to a half hour to kick in. So you might drink your can (or coffee), nap for 15 minutes or less, then wait until you feel alert enough to drive.
Even better, steer clear of energy drinks altogether and don’t drive unless you’ve had enough sleep.
January 20, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN