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We are pleased to bring you the 10th edition of Fast Facts. This is a brief report on
local data that we believe you will find useful in both understanding and improving the
health of our community. Our goal is to keep it brief and instructive and to provide
opportunities for all persons to positively impact the issue.  


This month our topic is sports and energy drinks. We would like to thank Dr. James Mowry, Director of the Indiana Poison Center, and Tracy L. Brooks, Assistant Chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at Manchester University College of Pharmacy, for their help with this report. Please feel free to forward to colleagues, board members and others in the community.

Sports & Energy Drinks


Sports and energy drinks are very popular beverages that are heavily marketed to children and adolescents. While commonly thought of as the same product, they are quite different in their composition.


Sports drinks are beverages that may contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes, and flavoring and are intended to replenish water and electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise. Energy drinks typically contain caffeine, other plant-based stimulants, simple sugars, and other additives. The level of caffeine contained in many energy drinks is excessive and often difficult to determine from the labeling on the can. Some energy drinks contain more than 500 mg of caffeine - equivalent to 14 cans of common caffeinated soft drinks - and can result in toxicity [1].


The caloric content is an issue for both sports drinks and energy drinks. Sports drinks contain 10 to 70 calories per serving, and the caloric content of energy drinks ranges from 10 to 270 calories per serving.


Prevalence of Use 

  • Energy drinks are very popular among youth and are regularly consumed by 31 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds and 34 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds.[2]  
  • From 1989-2008, the percentage of American children ages 6 to 11 consuming sports drinks increased significantly, from 2 percent to 12 percent.[3]


  • The carbohydrates in sports drinks can lead to excessive caloric intake, which can increase children's and adolescents' risk for overweight and obesity.
  • Health concerns regarding caffeine consumption by children include its effects on the developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems, sleep disturbances, increase in anxiety and the risk of physical dependence and addiction. A lethal dose of caffeine is considered to be 200 to 400 mg/kg.[4]
  • Dental erosions from sports and energy drinks are of concern in children and adolescents due to the acidity of the beverages.
  • When alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, a popular practice among youth, they are 3 times more likely to binge drink (based on breath alcohol levels) than drinkers who do not report mixing alcohol with energy drinks; and are about twice as likely to report being taken advantage of sexually, to report taking advantage of someone else sexually, and to report riding with a driver who was under the influence of alcohol [2]

What You Can Do


 As a health care provider:  

  • As part of each yearly checkup, ask routine questions that specifically address the use of sports and energy drinks in addition to reviewing a patient's nutritional status.
  • Improve the education of children and adolescents and their parents in the area of sports and energy drinks, including the potential health risks.
  • Counsel that intake of these beverages can lead to excessive caloric consumption and an increased risk of overweight and obesity as well as dental erosion.
  • Promote water, not sports or energy drinks, as the principal source of hydration for children and teens.  

As a parent:     

  • Help your child understand that only those people participating in sports programs involving prolonged vigorous physical activity actually may benefit from sports drinks.
  • Do not purchase sports or energy drinks for your household - encourage water and milk as preferred family beverages. Sports and energy drinks are not indicated for use during meals or snacks as a replacement for low-fat milk or water.  

As a funder or public official:     

  • Fresh, safe, and free drinking water should be available at all times for children and adolescents, especially in schools and on athletic fields, recreational facilities, out-of-school time programs, and parks.
  • Sports drinks should not be available or advertised throughout the school setting, and should not be available as options for purchase from school vending machines, school stores, the cafeteria, and other school facilities. Exceptions may apply for students participating in sports programs involving prolonged vigorous physical activity.


Fast Facts is a collaboration of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health and
United Way of Allen County 2-1-1
  Contact Deborah McMahan, MD or John Silcox
 c/o Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health