A study led by the Yale School of Public Health has found that middle-school students who drink heavily sweetened energy drinks have a 66% higher risk for hyperactivity and inattention symptoms.

From 12 out of 27 randomly selected district schools, 1,649 students in Connecticut completed health behavior surveys that included a five-item hyperactivity/inattention subscale.

The survey found that boys consumed more of the sweetened, caffeinated drinks than girls, and that black and Hispanic students consumed them at higher rates than their white peers. For each additional beverage consumed, risk of hyperactivity/inattention increased by 14%, after adjusting for age (average age 12.4 years), ethnicity/race, school lunch eligibility, family structure, sugary food consumption and sex.

Previous research has shown a strong correlation between hyperactivity/inattention and poor academic success, difficulties with social interaction, and higher injury rates. This led one of
the researchers, Jeannette Ickovics, PhD, director of Community Alliance for Research and Engagement at the School of Public Health, to recommend not only further research on the link between sweetened caffeinated beverages and hyperactivity, but also increased parental support for zero consumption of energy drinks for children.

With these drinks containing up to 40 grams of sugar, the implications for obesity must also be considered, especially with approximately one-third of American schoolchildren currently qualifying as overweight or obese. In just one drink, these high-sugar beverages surpass the recommended maximum for sugar intake in a day, which is 21–33 grams, depending on the age of the child.

Alexandra Williams, MA

Alexandra Williams has taught fitness for 17 years and has a master’s degree in agency counseling, with an emphasis on marriage and family. Her professional training has forced her to scrutinize her own value system, especially as she attempts to raise ethical children. The author wishes to thank Jack Raglin and Jim Gavin for their helpful insights and suggestions.

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