Why Elementary Schools Should Ban Energy Drinks

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.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

iOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won’t Stop Running
Sept. 17 2014 12:13 PM “For a While Liquidity Led to Stupidity”
The Eye
Sept. 17 2014 12:19 PM Early Cancer Hospitals Were Modeled on French Castles, Served Champagne
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Sept. 17 2014 11:06 AM Inside the Exclusive World of Members-Only Clubs
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.