Dr. Marcie Beth Schneider, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition, and Dr. Holly J. Benjamin of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, said sports drinks and energy drinks are different products.
Energy drinks can contain caffeine, guarana and taurine, and caffeine has been linked to a number of harmful health effects in children. Energy drinks are never appropriate for children or adolescents, said Schneider and Benjamin, co-authors of the report. In general, caffeine-containing beverages, including soda, should be avoided.
"In many cases, it's hard to tell how much caffeine is in a product by looking at the label," Schneider said. "Some cans or bottles of energy drinks can have more than 500 mg of caffeine, which is the equivalent of 14 cans of soda."
Sports drinks contain carbohydrates, minerals, electrolytes and flavoring. They are intended to replace water and electrolytes lost through sweating during exercise, the researchers said. Sports drinks can be helpful for young athletes engaged in prolonged, vigorous physical activities, but in most cases they are unnecessary.
"For most children engaging in routine physical activity, plain water is best," Benjamin said in a statement. "Sports drinks contain extra calories that children don't need, and could contribute to obesity and tooth decay. It's better for children to drink water during and after exercise."
The report is published in the journal Pediatrics.