As a concerned parent, we are always looking for possible causes of ADHD and how to avoid them. This is why at our ADHD Centre we often get asked by parents if energy drinks are a cause of ADHD? What we answer them, is often surprising.
Before answering the question, we always like to ask why their child is even drinking energy drinks. Energy drinks are designed to give people a short term “burst” in their energy level. Who could possibly need this energy less than a child? Children are full of life and full of energy. As long as they are sleeping well, eating properly, and are active, they shouldn’t have any need for an increase in energy.
The problem with energy drinks is that the extra energy provided mainly comes through sugar and caffeine. This is then supplemented with other ingredients like ephedrine or taurine that also provide a boost but studies on the effect of long term health are still up in the air.
What we do know is that the average child between 4-10 years old should have around 12 grams of sugar a day. Many of these energy drinks contain over 40 grams of sugar. This means that without having any other products that contain sugar, one energy drink already gives them almost 4 times more than they should have in a day.
Caffeine in energy drinks generates similar results to sugar. Many of the energy drinks contain more caffeine per can then your child should safely have per day. You can see the full chart for the limit of caffeine based on age on the Government site for healthy Canadians
Both, increased sugar and caffeine in a child’s diet are linked to ADHD. Other products like food colouring also have a strong association with ADHD in children. Just worrying about energy drinks is not the full picture. Sodas can also contain a high concentration of caffeine and sugar and should be limited for children. Juices as an alternative do not contain caffeine; however, they are typically high in sugar too. Many other food and beverage products have sugar or food colouring ingredients that should be avoided if possible.
If you suspect that your child is showing signs of ADHD or hyper-activity, their diet is always the first place to look. How much sugar, caffeine, and food colouring do they take on a daily basis? With the right change in their diet, maintained for approximately 30 days, you should be able to see a strong improvement in the behaviour of your child.
For this reason we would recommend keeping your children off of energy drinks until at least after the age of 13. If they think they need the “extra energy”, you should start by trying to improve the amount of time that they sleep and other areas of their diet before resorting to these types of drinks.
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