Preteens who consume heavily sweetened energy drinks are 66 percent more likely to be at risk for hyperactivity and inattention symptoms, according to a new study by the Yale School of Public Health.
Experts suggest that children limit their intake of sweetened beverages and not consume energy drinks at all.
“As the total number of sugar-sweetened beverages increased, so too did risk for hyperactivity and inattention symptoms among our middle-school students. Importantly, it appears that energy drinks are driving this association,” said lead author Jeannette Ickovics, Ph.D., director of CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement) at the Yale School of Public Health.
“Our results support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that parents should limit consumption of sweetened beverages and that children should not consume any energy drinks.”
For the study, the researchers evaluated 1,649 middle-school students (average age 12.4) randomly selected from an urban school district in Connecticut.
The findings showed that boys were more likely to drink energy drinks than girls and that black and Hispanic boys were more likely to consume these beverages than their white peers. The study controlled for the number and type of other sugar-sweetened drinks consumed.
Certain energy drinks and other sweetened beverages that are popular among students can contain up to 40 grams of sugar. Health experts suggest that children consume a maximum of 21 to 33 grams of sugar per day (based upon age). On average, the students in this study consumed two sweetened drinks per day, with a range of zero to seven or more drinks.
While more research is needed to gain a better understanding of the effects and mechanisms linking sweetened beverages to hyperactivity, previous studies have found a significant link between children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and poor academic performance, as well as difficulties in social situations and increased susceptibility to injuries.
These associations are understudied among minority children, said Ickovics, and earlier research has suggested that ADHD in black and Hispanic children has been under-diagnosed.
Heavily sweetened drinks also have a direct impact on childhood obesity, she said, and these drinks are a leading cause of additional calories in the diets of obese children. Currently, about one-third of American schoolchildren are overweight or obese.
The study findings have strong implications for school success, and they also support existing recommendations that schoolchildren limit the amount of sugary drinks they consume. The researchers suggest that children avoid energy drinks altogether, which in addition to high levels of sugar also contain caffeine.
The study is published in the journal Academic Pediatrics.
Source: Yale School of Public Health