What's the Buzz on Energy Drinks for Kids?

ByABC News
September 26, 2005, 12:07 PM

Sept. 26, 2005 — -- There's nothing new in marketing products to children, even products intended for adults. But doctors are concerned that a new sports drink containing caffeine and other substances, marketed to children as young as 4 years old, may have gone too far.

Spark, a product aimed at adults and teens manufactured by Advocare of Carrollton, Texas, contains 120 milligrams of caffeine -- roughly the same amount as a cup of coffee -- as well as 200 mg of taurine and 50 mg of gamma-aminobutyric acid, a compound with stimulant properties.

These ingredients are usually found in energy drinks and sports beverages intended for elite athletes.

KickStart Spark, a related product specifically marketed for children 4 years and older, contains even more gamma-aminobutyric acid (100 mg), 200 mg of taurine and 60 mg of caffeine.

"This is shameful marketing," said Madelyn H. Fernstrom, associate professor and director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Weight Management Center. "Under the guise of 'good health,' this is a promotion of caffeine consumption, which will likely have a biological effect on most children who consume it, since their intake is low."

Fernstrom acknowledges the levels of caffeine in both Spark and KickStart Spark are not inherently dangerous. "But there's nothing in this that's any good for you," she said.

"There's nothing that's redeeming in any of this stuff," Fernstrom added. "At the very least it's a huge waste of money."

Prices for KickStart Spark start at $13.95, according to the manufacturer's Web site. Spark can cost as much as $49.95 for a 42-serving canister.

The company does not grant interviews regarding its products, according to Advocare spokeswoman Cindy Depierri.

Doctors are also concerned that addictive stimulants like caffeine often have an unintended consequence for children -- insomnia.

"Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. That's right, drug," said Dr. Judith Owens, head of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I.