Sunday, November 25, 2012

Omega-3 Super nutrient or just a fishy tale?

Last week I briefly touched on the possibility that omega-three fatty acids may accelerate brain healing. [1] For well over a decade omega-three’s have been touted for their benefits especially as it relates to brain and heart health.

To date the only negatives linked to omega-three’s and fish oil (top source of omega-three) was that it tasted awful and could also cause fishy burps.

The Journal of American of the American Medical Association recently published research that indicated supplementation with omega-three polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) was not associated with a lower risk of cardiac death, sudden death, heart attack, or stroke.

Our findings do not justify the use 0f omega-three PUFA as a structural intervention in everyday clinical practice or guidelines supporting dietary omega-three PUFA administration, concluded researchers at the University Hospital of Ionnina in Greece. [2]

You may have read headlines like the following in recent weeks; “benefits of omega-threes just a fish tale?”  However, before you throw away all of your fish oil it must be mentioned that this study contradicts previous research while also having several flaws with its analysis.  If you’d like to read more on the specifics in this case I will link to them at the end of this article.

Anecdotally I have spoken to a doctor who specializes in healing the body holistically and he mentioned that too much fish oil could plug your body up.  I have not been able to verify this information however and have not heard this idea mentioned before.

A few things that should be considered however if you do use omega-three supplements or plan to do so:

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements usually do not have negative side effects. When side effects do occur, they typically consist of minor gastrointestinal symptoms, such as belching, indigestion, or diarrhea.

It is uncertain whether people with fish or shellfish allergies can safely consume fish oil supplements.

Omega-3 supplements may extend bleeding time (the time it takes for a cut to stop bleeding). People who take drugs that affect bleeding time, such as anticoagulants (“blood thinners”) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), should discuss the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements with a health care provider.

Fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil, are not the same as fish oil. Fish liver oils contain vitamins A and D as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Both of these vitamins can be toxic in large doses. The amounts of vitamins in fish liver oil supplements vary from one product to another.

There are some concerns that some fish oil supplements can be contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or mercury, which is especially concerning since the FDA does not actually have to approve supplements to make sure they are safe or effective. Buying supplements that state they are USP (United States Pharmacopeia) certified can help to make sure they meet quality, purity, and potency. Unfortunately, few supplement makers actually participate in the USP program.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning that our bodies can not produce them on their own and need to get them from our diet, either from the foods we eat and drink, or from a supplement.

Consult your health care provider before using omega-3 supplements. If you are pregnant or nursing a child, if you take medicine that affects blood clotting, if you are allergic to fish or shellfish, or if you are considering giving a child an omega-3 supplement, it is especially important to consult your (or your child’s) health care provider. [3]

Should children take omega-3 supplements?

I will give you my take on that question but before I do I will let you know what the medical community recommends:

Dr. Alex Richardson, a senior research fellow from Oxford University, indicates that most children can benefit from 450 to 500 mg per day of a combined EPA/DHA supplement. He cautions that some children might need more to see any benefits from the fish oil use, but that children should only take over 1,000 mg a day if under a doctor's strict supervision.

Fish oil supplements often leave behind an oily, fishy taste that many children dislike, so supplements marketed for children usually contain artificial sweeteners and flavorings. Dr. Richardson suggests picking a supplement with the more natural sweeteners xylitol and mannitol. Check the daily-recommended dose of the supplement on the label, easy to overlook this but don’t take it for granted.

Although overdosing your child on fish oil is unlikely to do her serious harm, according to Dr. Richardson, it can cause an upset stomach and other unpleasant digestive symptoms. Some children might also develop allergies to fish oils that can pose a risk to their health, so talk to your doctor if you notice any signs of an allergic reaction in your child, including wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea and skin rashes. [4]

The American Heart Association recommends that all adults eat a variety of fish, preferably those high in omega-3 fatty acids, at least twice a week, and also eat foods rich in ALA, such as flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseed.

Although there aren't specific recommendations about fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids for kids, the food pyramid does advise that it is important to include fish, nuts, and seeds in a child's diet. [5]

It is my strong belief that adults and children should strive to obtain as many of their nutrients as possible from whole foods.  That said due to concerns regarding mercury and other contaminants in fresh water fish obtaining safe and adequate levels of omega-three’s may seem challenging without resorting to supplementation.  As the name suggests supplements should only serve as a safeguard against deficiencies and compliment the foods that we eat.

Children tend to have favorites and as a result their dietary intake isn’t very balanced.  Case in point most children don’t like the taste/texture/smell of fish.  So they aren’t likely to get adequate amounts of omega-three’s.  Having said that there are other ways to get omega-three from non-fish food sources.

Fish, plant, and nut oils are the primary dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, tuna, and herring. ALA is found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, walnuts, and walnut oil. The health effects of omega-3 fatty acids come mostly from EPA and DHA. ALA from flax and other vegetarian sources needs to be converted in the body to EPA and DHA. Many people do not make these conversions very effectively, however. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include sea life such as krill and algae. [6]

Supermarkets are now carrying a range of products that tout their added omega-3 content as a health benefit. Everything from mayonnaise to cereal to eggs can be found with omega-3 added in. But are these products really better for your health?

Probably not, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). [7]

First the amount of omega-three content is rather insignificant and doesn’t match the claims on the label and secondly the sources are of poor quality.

Avoid omega-three eggs! Typically the animals are fed poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized. But even if they were healthy, it turns out that omega-3 eggs do not last anywhere near as long as non-omega-3 eggs.
Eggs (specifically their yolks) from pasture-raised hens are also a good source of omega-threes and should be your eggs of choice (free-range and the aforementioned omega-three eggs is very misleading). [8]

I think the best strategy is not necessarily to increase you and your family’s omega-three intake though if you’re able to obtain it from high-quality whole foods sources that would be a very good goal.  Rather reducing the amount of highly refined and processed fats from your diet is very important for immediate and long-term health.

Strategies to improve your “good” to “bad” fat ratio:

·      Unprocessed organic oils such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and avocado oil, and organic butter—or better yet, raw butter from grass-pastured cows. Raw milk is also a good source of highly bioavailable omegas.

·      Raw nuts and seeds, such as fresh organic flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and English walnuts, which are also high in omega-3s (ALA).

·      Meat from animals that are free ranging and/or grass fed, which are higher in beneficial omega-6s, such as natural CLA. If you have access to them, game meats such as venison are very high in beneficial fats. The article “Better Beef,” written by California rancher Dave Evans, gives a great in-depth view of the many benefits of grass-fed beef.

·      Egg yolks from pastured hens are rich in beneficial omega-3s.

·      Coconut oil, although not an omega-3, is also an extremely beneficial dietary fat with an “embarrassment of riches” for your heart, metabolism, immune system, skin and thyroid. Coconut oil’s health benefits derive from its special MCFAs (medium-chain fatty acids). [9]

Worried about the mercury content in fresh fish?  Check this out:


[1] Fish Oil Helped Save Our Son

[6] Animal Based Omega-Three Superior to Plant Based:

[7] Center for Science in the Public Interest October 1, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Should Football Be Banned?

A New Hampshire school board member says that he wants to ban football in his district. Paul Butler, a retired surgeon and first-term board member for the Dover school district, says that the risks of injury in the sport are too great. "I think it's bad to take this away I certainly do. But it's worse to let it continue." [1]

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t just call football a contact sport. The medical group also refers to it as a collision sport, because participants routinely slam into each other or into the ground.

AAP released updated guidelines in 2010 on dealing with head injuries in children, recommending that some student-athletes retire from football after multiple concussions or if symptoms from a concussion last longer than three months.

The National Federation of State High School Associations is the rule-making body for many high school sports and activities. According to NFHS's web site, research shows that students who participate in “more vigorous sports,” including football, do better than their peers in some subjects, including math and science.

The organization says it recognizes the significance of brain injuries in sports. "The NFHS has been the leader among national sports organizations in establishing guidelines to deal with concussions," the organization says on its web site. NFHS says that more than 200,000 people have taken its online course on concussions, which can be accessed for free at

Dr. Butler, who played football in high school and college, said that he's concerned about potential lawsuits over football injuries. "My worry is that if we have this information.... about how dangerous concussions are, and we continue to fund the program, it seems to me that we are encouraging something that is morally and ethically wrong. It could put a school at financial risk so we don't have enough money to educate the children," Dr. Butler said.

Concussions in football are “the hottest topic in sports parenting today,” according to former Sports Illustrated writer Rick Wolff who has a radio show in New York City that focuses on sports and parenting.

That’s been true for two years amid nonstop media reports about former NFL players’ deteriorating health and lawsuits against the NFL. Concussions are getting most of the attention, but the sport as a whole is being scrutinized. Is it more dangerous now than it used to be?

“The whole issue of concussion has reached greater heights,” says Dr. Karen Breach, the immediate past president of the North Carolina Pediatric Society. “I know I’m making diagnoses of concussion much more often than I did 10 years ago, or even five years ago, and I’m not hesitant to use the word or keep the kid out of the sport longer or at all.”

That doesn’t mean more kids are suffering concussions, but that they are visiting their doctors about them more. More diagnoses means more discussion of the issue, and more discussion of the issue means more diagnoses.

Former NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion quarterback Kurt Warner said last summer he didn’t want his kids to play football.  Warner suffered several concussions during his playing career so he knows what the consequences and short-term effects can have on a fully developed man.  It’s scary to think of what the long-term effects would have on still developing children.

Bryan Hinkle plans to do with his own 7-year-old son what his parents did with him: Keep him out of tackle football until he reaches 9th grade. It worked out for Hinkle—he played in the NFL for 12 seasons with the Steelers.

Hinkle’s son plays flag football in Pittsburgh, for now. He won’t be eligible for tackle football for two more years. “It’s not just concussions. Football is a violent sport,” Hinkle says. “There’s a lot of issues with football, period. You’ve got to figure, is it worth your son playing, he might blow a knee out, or get an ankle injury, let alone a concussion.”

As a former NFL player, Hinkle knows the physical dangers of the sport. He suffered three concussions and had six surgeries while he played. His health is good some days, not so much on others. He has arthritis and back problems. No father would wish that pain on his son. But Hinkle also doesn’t want to over-react to every danger that presents itself. [2]

Jim Thompson sees opportunity in all the attention being paid to concussions and football. He founded Positive Coaching Alliance 14 years ago after being appalled at the “win at all costs” coaching mentality he saw when his kids played sports.

“Preventing kids from getting concussions has always been a very important issue. Now the spotlight is on it,” he says. “We should take advantage of that. Let’s do everything we can to make kids safer so they can compete safely, not get rid of football.”

Dr. Tina Master is a pediatrician in Philadelphia who was featured in Head Games, a documentary about concussions that is available online and in theaters. Her son plays on a hockey team coached by former NHL player Keith Primeau, who was forced to retire because of repeated concussions.

“I think there is so much good that comes from contact and collision sports especially if you have boys. For a boy, I think there’s a real role for contact sports in a controlled, safe environment,” she said. “I would absolutely not say get rid of checking hockey or tackle football or whatever, at all, as the answer to what’s going on right now.”

But the status quo isn’t the answer, either.

“There are great things about football that we need to preserve. And then there are aspects that need to be changed because of changing times,” she says. “If you’re playing football starting when you’re 5, if you can only sustain so many hits, you don’t want to use them up by the time you’re 12. I have kids who retire from football when they’re 12. It’s crazy. I want my kids to play football for as long as they want, for a lifetime, for fun.”


·      Have a pre-season health and wellness evaluation
·      Perform proper warm-up and cool-down routines
·      Consistently incorporate strength training and stretching
·      Hydrate adequately to maintain health and minimize cramps
·      Stay active during summer break to prepare for return to sports in the fall
·      Wear properly fitted protective equipment, such as a helmet, pads, and mouth guard
·      Tackle with the head up and do not lead with the helmet
·      Speak with a sports medicine professional or athletic trainer if you have any concerns about football injuries or football injury prevention strategies [3]

Sport Specialization for Young Athletes

I will wrap it up by referencing two topics that were touched on in the above article that I would shamelessly highlight to promote the mission of keeping kids in the game for life.  12 year NFL veteran Brian Hinkle did not start playing tackle football until he was in the 9TH grade!  So much for early specialization being the only route to the pros and trust me his case is far from rare rather it’s much closer to the norm. Highlight number two, courtesy of the Philadelphia pediatrician Dr. Master.  If your body has only some many “bullets” in it why would we want our kids to use them all up by the age of 12?

What a growing and maturing body needs in order to remain injury free and develop optimal athletic skill is variety. With respect to training, this amounts to NOT having a hyper-focus on making a young athlete a better football player by only doing exercises in the gym that the NFL players would do. The strongest and fastest athletes in any sport are the ones who had the greatest diversity of training while they were young.

The end result is an athlete who is happier, healthier, and ultimately more effective when the significance of sport participation begins to increase during the teen years.

That said I would encourage parents and coaches to analyze the sport exposures of the children under their care with a critical eye. While attempting to win the little league championship may seem like a wonderful goal, it should never come at the cost of what is best for the athlete's long-term development.

Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids accelerate brain healing?

17-year-old Bobby Ghassemi, a former high school football player who was left in a coma after a devastating car accident, regained his health after physicians administered high-dose omega-3 fats through a feeding tube.

Your brain is 60 percent fat and DHA (docosahexanoic acid, a type of omega-3 fat) alone makes up about 15 percent to 20 percent of your brain's cerebral cortex; it's found in high levels in your neurons -- the cells of your central nervous system, where it provides structural support.

Animal studies as well as another documented case in a coal miner with severe brain damage suggest omega-3 fats are highly beneficial for helping to trigger the brain’s healing process after traumatic brain injury.

Despite the apparent benefits, high-dose omega-3 therapy is still considered an “unorthodox” treatment for traumatic brain injury, and is not routinely ordered as a standard of care; if a family member suffers from a traumatic brain injury, you may have to be their advocate to have this treatment administered. [4]

Omega-3 fatty acids have generally been accepted as highly beneficial but what does the science really say and why are some health and nutrition experts divided on the subject?  I will cover this in some detail next week.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

More dangerous than football...

A group of U.S. pediatricians last week recommended that cheerleading be designated an official sport, mainly to help prevent injuries, which the doctors say can be catastrophic.

Some of the group's other recommendations include requiring cheerleaders to pass pre-season physicals, to have access to strength and conditioning coaches and to be removed from competing or performing if they have a head injury.

"We felt that there needed to be some guidelines out there on how to make it safer for these girls," said Dr. Cynthia LaBella, co-author of the recommendations that were issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

In the realm of high school athletics, cheerleading accounts for less than 1 injury per 1,000 "athletic exposures" in girls, according to the AAP. That's far less than the 8.5 injuries per 1,000 exposures for gymnastics or the 5.3 per 1,000 exposures for soccer.

However, research has shown that cheerleaders are at a disproportionately high risk for catastrophic injuries, which include skull fractures and spine injuries.

According to the AAP, cheerleading accounted for 65 percent of all catastrophic injuries in high school girl athletes and about 71 percent in college women between 1982 and 2009.

"In many states and at the college level, cheerleading isn't officially recognized as a sport. And because of that there are quite a few safety mechanisms they miss out on," said LaBella, an associate professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Those safety mechanisms, according to the AAP, include access to trainers and medical care, better facilities and practice times and certified coaches. [1]

Most of us have an image of cheerleaders as possessing high energy and bright smile and glowing personality.  While this is for the most part true these qualities may also serve to mask the fact that these young ladies (I know males do cheer but 96% of participants are female) beat their still developing bodies up pretty good.

Scan the sidelines of your local high school football team and you will undoubtedly see girls with their knees, ankles, and wrists taped or braced.  What we can’t see is that they are also very likely to suffer from some sort of lower back pain.

My 13-year old niece competes in competitive cheer and I always ask how she’s feeling because I have a pretty good sense her body is banged up.  She tells me that her knees hurt all the time and her lower back hurts most of the time.  Last week I worked with a high school girl’s gymnastics team.  After watching them perform their routine and observing similar issues with cheerleading I felt compelled to highlight these two populations particularly in light of the recommendations above.

For the most part girls don’t train to play/participate in their sport.  They use the sport to prepare them to play.  This would be akin to trying to prepare a meal and serve it at the same time; you’re always going to be behind.  However if you do the work ahead of time (prepare the meal) when it comes time to perform (serve the meal) you are set up for success.  Then it’s just a matter of whether or not the judges (diners) like your routine (food).  The foundation of general fitness and strength does not exist in this population yet they are still called upon to hoist each other up and do hand springs off a vault and stick a high velocity landing.  These activities are just as demanding as anything you will find in most boys sports but the level of commitment by girls to strength and conditioning falls far short of what should be required to minimize the risk of injury and to ensure optimal performance.

Another issue is strictly due to the competitive demands of these activities.  Form, the way movement or the routine looks is very important in cheerleading and gymnastics.  Due to this nature the girls are required to have tremendous “flexibility.”  As a result these young athletes spend a disproportionate amount of time taking their joints to end range of motion and holding a stretch for long periods of time to improve muscle length.  In the essence of time I won’t get into whether or not this method of stretching is having the intended affect but this extreme stretching definitely has negative implications.  These athletes also perform high velocity movements with extreme joint range of motion such as a back bend to handstand.  If you’ve ever seen that move it will make you cringe just watching it (ugh that poor spine). 

Our muscles provide our bodies with active restraints.  When our muscles fire they not only provide movement but also help to stabilize and control joints.  Joints and ligaments are more passive in nature; they provide stability when the muscle fails for whatever reason.  When a muscle is stretched to it’s full capacity repeatedly and over a long duration it begins to lose it’s resiliency and their protective nature is delayed.  Imagine a rubber band that is stretched maximally and held at that length for long periods of time.  Eventually it becomes very loose and loses its elasticity. When the muscles aren’t providing adequate stability these young athletes have to find it somewhere and it very often results in hanging on a passive restraint like a joint.

Young athletes will lockout their knees and/or hyperextend their lower back to create stability to support their bodies while executing the required movements or routines.  In this case imagine a credit card that is repeatedly being flexed back and forth so that both ends touch.  Eventually the card snaps in half, analogous to a stress fracture for a young athlete.

And while I use cheerleading and gymnastics as examples it should also be understood that in all sports there are certain competitive demands inherent within them that can lead to pain and injury if it’s not counteracted.  For example basketball players often get their ankles taped and/or wear hi-top sneakers for added support of the ankle joint.  While on the surface this seems logical it can also be problematic.  The ankle is a very mobile joint and if some sort of brace restricts it the body will compensate in an attempt to find that lost mobility somewhere else.  Frequently that movement will come from the less mobile knee joint and this is likely why serious knee injuries are fairly common in basketball players while catastrophic ankle injuries strangely enough are pretty rare.  That said, I wouldn’t advise basketball players to throw away the hi-tops or stop taping, it clearly proves advantageous in the prevention of ankle sprains.  What I am saying is that training must be adapted with the knowledge that ankle mobility must be maintained while concurrently improving knee stability and hip mobility (hip mobility is a very good thing) to prevent injury and ensure optimal performance.

The message that should not be missed within all of these examples is the importance off some type of pre-competition training program to improve athlete safety and injury reduction.  The main benefit of safe, healthy athletes is that they perform better and when they perform better it’s more fun.  The most effective tool to prevent youth sport injuries is a balanced athletic development foundation.  This used to be easy to attain through free play and seasonal sport participation.  Now due to the rise of sport specialization and travel teams kids lack that broad foundation that will ensure their durability. Sensible and anti-specific training programs have become a necessity for the current youth sport culture.  The sooner this approach is adopted the better off our young athletes will be.

Cheerleading Injury Prevention Resource

Gymnastics Injury Prevention Resource

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Diet and Energy Drinks: Solutions or part of the problerm?

Per capita soft drink consumption has increased nearly 500 percent over the past five decades, and children, unfortunately, are a major reason for this staggering increase.

Kids are introduced to soda at very young ages and consumption only increases, as they get older.

An estimated 56 percent of 8-year-olds drink soda daily, and once the teenage years come, some kids drink at least three cans of soda each day.

Regular soda is, of course, a significant source of sugar (mostly in the form of fructose), with each can containing about 10 teaspoons of sugar, but due to artificial sweeteners' health effects, diet sodas may have far more serious health effects.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened soda and other beverages has been linked to the rising obesity epidemic, along with other health issues, among kids. [1]

Likely as a result, a campaign has begun to get kids to stop drinking so many sugar-sweetened beverages… unfortunately, rather than replacing them with water or other healthy beverages it appears many kids are simply chugging down diet sodas instead – an absolutely terrible choice for kids' health.

Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta have found that more kids than ever in the United States are downing diet drinks – approximately double the number that were drinking them a decade ago. The study looked at data from a federal health survey, which ended with the year 2008 and showed that 12.5 percent of children were drinking artificially sweetened beverages. [2]

On the surface this may appear to be a positive switch if it means kids are consuming less sugar as a result, but diet sodas are actually worse for your health than regular soda, due to the artificial sweeteners they contain. As senior research of the study, Dr. Miriam Vos, noted:

"We do want children to drink less sugar. But the challenge is that there are no studies that have looked at the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners in growing children."

Though diet drinks may be lower in calories they may actually contribute to weight gain, a study by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. After following 474 diet soda drinkers for nearly 10 years, they found that their waists grew 70 percent more than the waists of non-diet soda drinkers. Further, those who drank two or more diet sodas a day had a 500 percent greater increase in waist size!

Worse still, no one knows what impact these substance will have on kids who start drinking them at young ages and continue on for decades throughout their lives.

Consumption of artificially flavored drinks may prove to be a hard habit to break. As stated in the journal Nursing:

"Artificial sweeteners are 200 to 13,000 times as sweet as sugar, and this enhanced sweetness is mildly addictive. Sweet taste triggers the dopamine signal, the same pathway triggered by drugs of abuse such as cocaine. If artificially sweetened sodas increase cravings, a person may need more sweets to feel satisfied, leading to excessive calorie consumption and weight gain."

Also be very wary of vitamin waters, if you take a closer look at the labels, you'll discover they're spiking these waters with a lot of unsavory ingredients, many capable of wreaking havoc on your metabolism, hormones, and other physiological processes. Many of these so-called "functional waters" contain one, two or more artificial sweeteners, even though the water may not be advertised as "diet" or "low-calorie." Some even contain sugar, corn syrup and artificial sweeteners like acesulfame potassium (ace-K) or sucralose (Splenda).

Parents also need to be aware of the use “energy drinks” by their children.  These products are useless at best and can even be dangerous.  In fact the New York attorney general has launched an investigation into energy drink manufacturers’ marketing and advertising practices.  The probe is looking into whether the companies are overstating benefits from certain healthful-sounding ingredients while downplaying the role of caffeine; another issue is whether manufacturers are adding multiple sources of caffeine, such as guarana, but not disclosing the full amount on the label. [3]

In December 2011, a 14-year-old girl suffered a fatal cardiac arrhythmia linked to caffeine toxicity after drinking two 24-ounce energy drinks in a 24-hour period. The girl’s mother as well as Senator Dick Durbin has since called on the FDA to regulate the caffeine content in the drinks. In a letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Durbin stated:

“ … 30 to 50 percent of adolescents report consuming energy drinks. However, a recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that energy drinks pose potentially serious health risks. The report found that between 2005 – 2009, the number of emergency room (ER) visits due to energy drinks increased ten-fold from 1,128 to 13,114 visits.” [4]

A major factor contributing to these hospitalizations is the exceptionally high levels of caffeine in energy drinks. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, adolescents should not consume more than 100mg of caffeine daily. One 16oz can of Monster contains 160mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to almost 5 cans of soda. However, this caffeine level does not account for caffeine from additives, like guarana, or ingredients with stimulating properties, like taurine and ginseng.

Consuming large quantities of caffeine can have serious health consequences, including caffeine toxicity, stroke, anxiety, arrhythmia, and in some cases death. Young people are especially susceptible to suffering adverse effects because energy drinks market to youth; their bodies are not accustomed to caffeine, and energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and stimulating additives that may interact when used in combination.

Originally, athletes were the target market for energy drink makers, but that soon expanded to target teenagers and young adults. Now, the majority is marketed at 18- to 34-year-olds (although younger teens often drink them as well), and the marketing is working – despite reports of serious adverse effects linked to their consumption (the risks are especially severe in children, adolescents, and young adults with seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, or mood and behavioral disorders or those who take certain medications).

The U.S. energy drink market is expected to reach nearly $20 billion in 2013, which is close to a 160 percent increase from 2008. Among the functional beverage category, the energy drink segment has experienced the largest volume growth and increased annual sales, both in the United States and abroad

A child or teenager who chronically lacks energy should be a red flag and the source of the issue needs to be found rather than covered up with supplements or energy drinks. Some of the natural options that will provide an energy boost without the scary side effects include eating a balanced diet with plenty of “good fats” like walnuts, pastured butter, whole eggs, olive oil and avocados.  Also getting plenty of quality sleep and intense bursts of exercise will also help provide the “jolt” you are looking for.

Extra Credit

A very interesting article that highlights recent research out of UCLA on the potential negative effects that high dietary intake of fructose can have on our health.

Why Half of America May Have Impaired Brain Function by 2030: