Start ‘Em Young: Caffeine, Sugar, and Chemicals
Energy drinks were originally conceived of as a means for active people to gain extra energy while performing physical activities. The immense popularity of energy drinks has boiled over into the world of industry, where thousands of workers need that extra pep in their step just to keep up with their job(s) and the rest of life’s challenges. As the popularity of these drinks increases, it shouldn’t be a shock to witness them pop up in other walks of life. However, an alarming place where energy drink use has been sprouting is during Home Economics 101. That’s right, middle school students are starting to use energy drinks.
What is incredibly unnerving is the fact that these early users are starting on Rock Star, Amp, and Red Bull because these are the brands with the catchy names that pre-teens and teens are attracted too. Physical Education Coach Sharon Means of Lufkin Middle School said, “I’ve seen a trend that young students are looking to other avenues for their energy or happiness.” Means is surprised by how many parents allow their kids to drink these high sugar, high-caffeine beverages.
Dr. Rima Kittley, board certified in family medicine, is equally concerned. Kittley said, “They’re drinking sugar water and/or artificially sweetened water with colors and flavors and caffeine, caffeine, caffeine.” Kittley said the side-effects of kids and young adults drinking artificial stimulant energy drinks include obesity, attention problems, and dehydration.
Pre-teens are supposed to have boundless levels of energy. They should be bouncing off the walls – always looking for a ball to catch, a tree to climb, or a field to run through. Imagine yourself back in middle school. You sit down, put your pencils in order, and take a look over your lunch to make sure your mom packed you a Snack Pack. After confirming that your mother still doesn’t realize that a bag of baby carrots is no Snack Pack, you look up and see something even more disturbing. All your classmates are drinking cups of coffee. Is this middle school or a college study session in Starbucks?
Sharon Means wants parents to understand the dangers involved in introducing an artificial stimulant energy drink to students at such an early age. “Students need to get energy from sleep, nutrition, and physical activity,” said Means.
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