"DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!" warned the Robot, a surrogate guardian to the young teen in the 1960s TV series Lost in Space. The owl, pictured above, looks as if it's been up all night. Well, of course, it does. But if your teenager has this same look, you better toss the high caffeine-energy drinks. And for God's sake, get rid of the caffeinated stimulant chewing gum.
Read the labels -- caffeine is in everything!
In fact, this post is a follow-up to an Ethic Soup article posted three months ago: "Caffeine is in Everything: How Much Is In You."
At that time, we were worried that most people had no idea just how much caffeine they consumed every day because it is an ingredient in so many products. Caffeine is in everything from high-octane energy drinks with mega milligrams of caffeine and cold medicine to candy bars, potato chips and even chewing gum.
CAFFEINE INTOXICATION CAN KILL YOU
Hospital emergency departments and poison control centers are reporting more and more people with caffeine intoxication -- a dangerous health condition unknown to most people. It can kill you.
TEENAGERS ARE TARGETED
And to whom do food and drink manufacturers of caffeinated products focus their millions of advertising dollars? It's teenagers. They are the major purchasers. They are also the largest demographic group to end up in hospital emergency rooms having consumed way too much caffeine. Also, teens will often mix high-caffeine energy drinks with alcohol and then they don't even recognize when they're drunk.
Now, in the last week, there are two different news stories involving teens and caffeine in the newspapers.
DANGERS OF STIMULANT CHEWING GUM
The first report is from doctors in Italy who have issued a warning about chewing gum containing caffeine and its dangers especially for children and teenagers.
A teenage Italian boy ( a 13-year-old in Naples)was hospitalized after his family noted he become agitated and aggressive, not typical for him. The teen's other symptoms included abdominal discomfort, increased and painful urination and prickling sensations in his legs.
Emergency doctors found the boy had a rapid heartbeat (147 beats per minute, rapid breathing (25 breaths per minute) and elevated blood pressure (145/90mm Hg).
He had consumed two packets of stimulant chewing gum within a four-hour period. Although the two packs of gum contained only 320 mm of caffeine, slightly more than three to six cups of coffee, the boy met the criteria for diagnosis of caffeine intoxication.
"The risk of intoxication is high in children and teenagers in view of general caffeine-naivety, and the unrestricted sale of these substances," said Francesco Natale, Second University of Naples and Monaldi Hospital in Naples, and colleagues. The case study, "When chewing gum is more than just a bad habit," appears in the May 30 issue of The Lancet.
CAFFEINE AFFECTS ABILITY TO FUNCTION
"Wired," a self-portrait by Byeong Sam Jeon, pictured right, illustrates the focus on a new study in pediatrics -- caffeine-fueled teens.
"Adolescents Living the 24/7 Lifestyle: Effects of Caffeine and Technology on Sleep Duration and Daytime Functioning," is found in the June issue of Pediatrics.
Teens do a lot of technical multi-tasking: texting messages, watching TV, listening to MP3s, doing homework, watching DVDs or videos, and surfing the internet.
"They're up at night and they're doing a lot less homework than we thought and a lot more multitasking," Said R. Christina J. Calamaro of Drexel University in Philadelphia, lead researcher of the study.
Researchers found that the more multitasking a teenager did, the more likely she or he was to doze off during the day. And the kids who nodded off were also the heaviest caffeine consumers.
While experts believe that teens need a minimum of nine hours of sleep every night, the researchers pointed out that the average sleep time for American teens is seven hours. Of the 100 teens (12- to 18-years olds) participating in the study, just one in five said they got 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
One third of the study participants said they fell asleep in school, some as much as eight times a day. The more a child's multitasking the night before, the more likely the teen was to fall asleep in school.
The teens' average caffeine consumption was 215 mg daily, or the equivalent of a couple of espressos.
"These adolescents who multitask the most are at risk for changes in school performance, difficulties with executive function, and degradation of neurobehavioral function," warned Calamaro.
Due to caffeine consumption, teenagers stay wired long into the night and don't get the message that night is time to start slowing down. But even if parents give them the message, being wired doesn't allow them to slow down and sleep.
TO READ MORE ABOUT "CAFFEINE: THE WORLD'S MOST POPULAR DRUG," CLICK HERE.
TO READ HOW WRIGLEY RESEARCH CLAIMS GUM MAKES TEENS SMARTER, CLICK HERE.