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As energy drink sales soar, doctors warn of health risks for young teens, children

A lot of us are guilty of reaching for an energy drink. Whether it’s for a boost of energy or to stay awake, companies claim they're safe.

However, doctors say they don't work and it's a false sense of security that can be dangerous.

Despite the warnings coming from doctors, energy drink sales are soaring.

In 2014 the global energy drinks market topped $49 billion dollars. Just here in the U.S. sales are expected to surpass $21 billion this year alone.

That growth is also revealing a disturbing new trend about who is consuming these drinks.

When Brent Videau got the call that his 12-year-old son Paul had been rushed to the hospital, his heart stopped.

“I was a work and I remember him being brought into the emergency room with a heart rate of 150,” Videau explained.

Doctors didn't know what was wrong with Paul. They thought it could be a heart murmur, but it turns out he drank a Rockstar Energy Drink.

“This is not uncommon,” Videau said. “It’s been shown to cause heart racing palpitations. Between 2007 and 2011, it has been shown that the emergency room visits, attributed to energy drinks, doubled from 10,000 to 20,000.”

When it comes to hearts nobody knows them better than Paul’s dad. He's actually Dr. Brent Videau, a cardiologist at Baptist Hospital, which is exactly where his son was taken.

Videau said energy drinks can raise your heart rate and blood pressure and force your heart to work harder, which in turn can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Especially if you have an underlying heart disease.

“I think the message needs to get out that these drinks, especially in combination with other products, can be dangerous,” he said.

Many studies have found more teens and young adults are drinking energy drinks regularly. They often drink more than one a day and drink the whole can, which usually has multiple servings.

It’s not just college students, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says up to 50 percent of kids say they've consumed energy drinks.

“Adolescents do not tolerate caffeine,” Videau said. “It effects their mood, their ability to learn, their affect, these drugs in mega quantities are extremely dangerous.”

Many energy drinks have two and three times the caffeine found in a typical cup of coffee, but there could also be hidden sources of caffeine.

Take for example the commonly used ingredient guarana. It's a plant found in Brazil, but what the label doesn't tell you is that its seeds contain twice the caffeine as a single coffee bean.

Caffeine isn't the only thing you have to be worried about. Energy drinks often contain excessive amounts of sugar, ‘B’ vitamins, the amino acid taurine, which is known to cause insomnia, ginseng and other herbal blends.

Since companies don't have to list their ingredients no one really knows what's in an energy drink.

“Because they applied to the FDA to be a dietary supplement, the FDA has no control over their ingredients, so you don't know what you're getting,” Videau said.

Doctors still don't know what long-term effects these ingredients have on the body.

“Are these dangerous combinations?” Videau asked. “We do not know; we just don't have the data. We just know more people are coming into a hospital emergency room.”

Jessica Blessing, a registered dietitian and health coach, said the amount of vitamins and sugar in energy drinks alone can be harmful.

“We only need 25 to 30 grams of added sugar a day,” Blessing explained. “This one for example, which is a Red Bull, has 39 grams of sugar so you are already over consuming your added sugars for the day in just this one drink.”

That same can of Red Bull also had four times the daily value of vitamin B6.

“We usually don't stop at this,” Blessing said. “We usually having two of them or you're having other sugary beverages throughout the day.”

Blessing said all that extra sugar and vitamins can cause stress and inflammation in the body.

“All the herbs and proprietary blends on top of all the sugar and the caffeine and all these vitamins and minerals. It's just too much,” she said. “So just think of that taxing effect or inflammation it’s putting on the body, it has to filter that out.”

Blessing said if your body is in a constant state of inflammation it can't recover, which can lead to disease.

“I don't like to demonize all of these things individually, but we just aren't doing things in moderation,” Blessing said. “And that is where we are seeing the deep effects of some of the consequences of over consuming them.”

Blessing said kids and teens should stay away from sugar and caffeine, especially since they're still developing.

“Health habits and healthy choices are really developed at a young age,” explained Blessing. “So really having these conversations with your kids and family is really crucial.”

If they won't listen, she said try talking to your doctor or a dietitian.

“Adolescents and teens sometimes don't listen to their parents as well as they listen to someone else telling them they shouldn't be doing it and why,” she said.

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