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Afterschool Youth get the "411" on Energy Drinks

On Oct. 16th, the SCIT Afterschool Program had two special guests from Nimkee Public Health who gave an educational presentation on energy drinks. Nimkee Public Health Educator Robyn Grinzinger introduced Central Michigan University student intern Caitlin Hills who delivered an excellent presentation on what youth should know about energy drinks. Caitlin is a senior at CMU and is finishing her degree in Health Education and welcomes the opportunity to speak with our Tribal youth about the subject. "Whether it is soda (Coke, Pepsi) or energy drinks (Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar), there is a lot of sugar in them," Hills informs. "We want the kids to know there are healthy alternatives out there and just like with professional athletes, kids need the right kind of fuel for everyday activities."

As Hills walked the students through the interactive activity, the kids were able to guess how many teaspoons of sugar were in certain regular energy drinks and that some drinks had as many as 16 teaspoons worth of sugar.

"Along with high amounts of sugar in certain soda and energy drinks, there can also be a lot of caffeine," Hills cautioned. "Caffeine is okay for adults but it is not good for children and prolonged use and abuse can lead to long-term damage to their hearts."

Hills mentioned that Vitamin Water Zero was a better alternative than all of the energy drinks she brought as examples, due to its no calories or sugar, but that regular water is always the healthiest drink choice. Vitamin Water Zero is sold in a variety of flavors at the Sagamok and Saganing Shell locations.

As a former CMU football standout, Parks & Recreation Director Ronnie Ekdahl knows it is important for the youth to realize the health risks associated with energy drinks. 

“We focus so much on drugs; smoking cigarettes and alcohol that sometimes we overlook other serious health risks that our young ones have readily available to them,” Ekdahl explains.  “I thought Caitlin did an excellent overview of all of the health hazards associated with energy drinks and sodas.  Sugar and caffeine in excess is very harmful to health and especially in someone who is still growing and not fully developed like our children.”

At the end of the session, the kids were each given a bottle of water and Crystal Light packets to use to flavor the water if they wished. The packets do not contain sugar and are only 5 calories per serving making them a good option for people who don't like plain water.

The Nimkee Public Health department did add a note to parents out there that right on the cans of Rockstar, Monster, and Red Bull energy drinks, a health warning of "Not recommended for Children" is printed.

"Kids cannot buy energy drinks at Sagamok but they are still able to buy them at places that have self-check-outs like Meijer and Wal-Mart," Grinzinger said. "In regards to your child's personal health, it is important to know what your children are purchasing."