Professor’s Mission to Educate Public on Dangers of Energy Drinks

February 7, 2013

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Professor’s Mission to Educate Public on Dangers of Energy Drinks

OLATHE, KAN. -- Energy drink lawsuits have dominated recent headlines – especially lawsuits in which these seemingly harmless drinks are linked to deaths. Dr. Kim Kato, a licensed athletic trainer and professor of health and exercise science at MidAmerica Nazarene University, has made it her mission to educate the public about the risks of energy drinks.

Kato says the biggest danger of these drinks is their high caffeine content (which, unlike caffeine content in soda, is not regulated by the FDA). Potential effects of such highly caffeinated energy drinks include disruptive behavior, diminished sleep, elevated blood pressure and possible developmental effects to neurologic and cardiovascular systems.

And since energy drinks are not tested on children, Kato says these symptoms may not encompass all the potential effects on youth.

Michael Dawdy, M.D., a local emergency room physician, confirms Kato’s findings.

“Caffeine at high doses is a potent stimulant,” said Dawdy. “As an ER doctor, I’ve seen several cases of teens and young adults who experience adverse effects from these drinks, causing emergency room visits.”

Kato has shared her research about the potential dangers of energy drinks with future athletic trainers and coaches in her sports nutrition class at MNU as well as to a broad audience of current teachers and coaches in Kansas.

In November, she presented to an audience of high school teachers and coaches at the Kansas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (KAPHERD) at the University of Kansas. Kato also presented to strength and weightlifting coaches in December at the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s meeting in Emporia.

So what should concerned parents know about these drinks? Kato says keep a few key facts in mind. Although many parents equate energy drinks with soda or sports drinks, there’s a big difference. Unlike sports drinks, energy drinks are filled with stimulants like caffeine, protein, and amino acids. Though they claim to increase focus and endurance, these drinks do little to combat dehydration.

Kato cites studies that show large amounts of caffeine decrease coordination and reaction time. She also emphasizes that energy drinks do not give users more energy. Their ingredients just burn the body’s energy faster, leading to a big let down.

Dr. Dawdy, father of two teenage athletes, said he observed this fact firsthand when his sons tried to get a quick energy boost from energy drinks.

“It never works,” said Dawdy. “Healthy eating habits during training and prior to performance, as well as attention to hydration, are the keys to athletic performance, not sugar and caffeine highs.”

Most of all, be aware that overuse of energy drinks can lead to dangerous health events.

“If we were in a coffee shop and saw a five-year-old order a cup of coffee would we look at them kind of strangely? Most of us would,” Kato said. “If the same five year old came in with a can of Red Bull, we’ve been conditioned to that not being strange for some reason.”



WATCH VIDEO of Dr. Kato and Dr. Dawdy on the subject of energy drink safety:

DOWNLOAD VIDEO clip suitable for news clips here: Photos/Additional Content:

ABOUT MNU: MidAmerica Nazarene University, founded in 1966, is a private, Christian, liberal arts university offering 40 undergraduate majors and three adult degree completion programs, as well as five professional graduate degrees in business, education, nursing, and counseling, and postgraduate certificates. Online offerings include classes in education, nursing and management. Study abroad as well as service-learning experiences are encouraged through MNU’s Go Global, MNU Europe, and ServiceCorps programs. The campus is located on 105 acres in Olathe, Kan., and operates a location in Liberty, Mo., for adult and graduate programs. More information may be found at

MNU facts: · MNU enrolls nearly 2,000 students · MNU has offered innovative, accelerated adult degree completion and graduate programs since 1987. · The yearly economic impact of the University is more than $50 million, not including expenditures by students and campus visitors.

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