Why Elementary Schools Should Ban Energy Drinks

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Feb. 27 2012 3:15 PM

Why Elementary Schools Should Ban Energy Drinks

Energy drinks should be banned from elementary schools.

Photo by EARL S.CRYER/AFP/Getty Images

Last week, a friend told me that her son had gone to the school nurse in his elementary school because of dizziness, shakiness, palpitations, and nausea. Her first thought was that he’d come down with a stomach virus. It turned out that he’d sampled a new energy drink called MiO. According to the manufacturer’s page, MiO is a flavored “liquid water enhancer” packaged in palm-sized squeeze bottles in several varieties, including two caffeine-containing “energy” versions. It’s intended to make water more exciting. (Per the homepage, “Water’s great and all, but sometimes it’s like a yawn in a glass.”) One serving of MiO Energy (a half-teaspoon squirt) purportedly contains 60 milligrams of caffeine, about the same as a cup of coffee. For a caffeine-naive child, multiple squirts must have had the physical effect of a couple of mega-caffeine Pike Place Roasts. (Not to mention that many energy drinks contain additives like guarana, which themselves contain large amounts of caffeine.)   

Some energy drinks are marketed as food while others are pitched as “dietary supplements”; the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 frees manufacturers from FDA regulation. And so energy drinks and liquid water enhancers like MiO, by including vitamins, minerals, herbs, or amino acids in their ingredients, have gained admission into the libertarian paradise of dietary and nutritional supplements—even though there’s nothing nutritious about them. We don’t know how much caffeine lurks within the snazzy bottles, but it’s clear that it’s too much for the elementary school set. According to a 2011 paper on health effects of energy drinks on children, children shouldn’t have more caffeine than 2.5 milligrams per kilogram per day; since the FDA limits 71 milligrams of caffeine per a 12-ounce can of soda, that’s about one soda a day, not a soda plus a couple of shots of MiO Energy.


Many high schools and middle schools ban energy drinks (which are not the same as sports drinks or vitamin waters) because of the caffeine content. It’s less clear whether this is a widespread practice in elementary schools, but it should be. Young kids (and their parents, and their teachers) need to know caffeine's potential health risks. We can’t count on the manufacturers, whose gimmicky ads designed to appeal to youngsters make me think of those ubiquitous Joe Camel ads back in the ’90s. Parents need to know the difference between sports drinks and energy drinks, and energy drink labels should clearly state the total caffeine content—including the amount in additives like guarana. Schools need to include information about caffeine-drenched energy drinks in their discussions of substances to avoid. Schoolkids and megadoses of caffeine are not a good combination, and, with products like the inhalable caffeine Aeroshot now hitting the market, the story is far from over.

Anna Reisman is a physician in Connecticut. You can follow her on Twitter: @annareisman.


The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

An Unscientific Ranking of Really, Really Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Lexicon Valley
Oct. 23 2014 10:30 AM Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 11:34 AM Louis C.K. Crashes a Brad Pitt Interview on Between Two Ferns
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.