Three reasons why energy drinks could be harmful to your teen's health.

By Maria Masters

Despite their name, energy drinks are not a healthy addition to your kid's diet. In fact, their popularity with teens — a reported 30% of 12-to-17-year-olds consume them — may be dangerous. Here are three reasons to suggest a substitute beverage.

They contain a lot of caffeine.

Experts worry that the stimulants in energy drinks may cause health problems in kids with pre-existing or undiagnosed conditions, says Steven Lipshultz, M.D., chairman of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Research finds that adolescents shouldn't consume more than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day, but popular brands can contain 150 to 280 milligrams per 16 ounces — or the same amount you'd find in two or three cups of coffee.

They are usually loaded with sugar.

Kids who often consume energy drinks could gain weight from the extra calories. Sugar content can be 21 to 34 grams per 8 ounces. That's the equivalent of two chocolate-frosted donuts.

They can mask the effects of intoxicants.

Nearly 30% of 12-to- 17-year-olds who visited the emergency room after having energy drinks had also been taking drugs or consuming alcohol. When teens combine caffeine (a stimulant) with booze (a depressant), they may underestimate how intoxicated they really are, says Dr. Lipshultz. This could lead them to keep on drinking or take additional risks.

Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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