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Energy Drinks and Junk Food May Pose Unique Dangers to Teen Development


I think there should be a skull and crossbones marker on energy drinks and junk food. I doubt any manufacturer will agree with me, but I suspect many parents will.

Any parent of a teenager will tell you that teens are still developing in many ways. In a word, they are immature. The concern is the effects of additives and junk food on developing brains and bodies.

High consumption of one additive, in particular, taurine, has been linked to adverse effects on learning and memory in young and adolescent mice. For females, there is also an increase in alcohol consumption. Of course, it is not appropriate to feed young humans high levels of taurine and see if they have increased alcohol consumption or decreased memory and learning capabilities, so don’t look for human studies to confirm the findings.

In a separate study, researchers found that junk food that is “highly palatable and rewarding, but nutritionally poor” is also bad for teen brains. These foods negatively affect key neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for decision making and reward-seeking behaviors. The result is an increase in poor decision making and seeking reward-based behaviors. This influences poor eating habits throughout adulthood.

In addition to steering teens away from junk foods and sugary energy drinks, it looks like exercise can have a positive influence on brain and body development.

Bottom line: Have a positive influence on your kids for a lifetime by urging them to avoid sugar- and chemical-laden junk foods and get moving with any kind of activity.