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Energy Drinks Extra Dangerous for Kids: Study

Just last week, "The Early Show" reported on the increasing concern about energy drinks, specifically those little tiny ones, mini-drinks, some of which claim they're effective due to the vitamins they contain.

Critics, though, say it's the caffeine in these drinks, not the vitamins, that really gives you a little kick. In fact, many claim the labels on those products are misleading. There's a brand-new study out with a major warning about this to parents -- a warning about just how dangerous these drinks can be for kids and young adults.

CBS New Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton joined "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill with the details.

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Whith these energy drinks so popular and sales are expected to top $9 billion this year, doctors are concerned.

According to Ashton, when you talk about the ingredients of this genre of beverage -- energy drinks, what you don't know really can hurt you.

"For the first time, the medical impact of these drinks was studied in one of the most reputable journals, the journal Pediatrics. They looked at their effects on kids all the way up to young adults. This impacts people up to the age of 25 years of age," Ashton noted.

These drinks "are completely unregulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) because they fall under the category of a supplement," Ashton says. "So you don't know how much caffeine is in there. You don't know how many other substances that act as central nervous system stimulants are in there -- and those can be dangerous."

How is an energy drink different from drinking a soda or a cup of coffee?

"Two different ways. Number one -- the amount. So if you look at some comparisons, a standard eight-ounce energy drink can have as much caffeine as three eight-ounce glasses of soda. Or cola," Ashton explains. "Another way to look at it is that, depending on the size of the energy drink, it can contain as much caffeine as the over-the-counter stimulant, No Doz. That's one area -- just the amount of caffeine in these.

"The other area of concern is that there are other ingredients in these products, like torine, sugar, and other herbal supplements that can act with caffeine in what we call a synergistic manner, which really stacks the deck in terms of how that caffeine hits your system and how it affects you."

What are the related health risks?

"You can see health affects ranging anywhere from nervousness to insomnia, to a rapid heart rate, to nausea," she says. "There have been over 5,000 reports in one year of serious adverse effects ranging again from seizures, heart attacks, even some death. This is a very dangerous entity when you talk about consumption."

For people who need a little boost, there are things you can do naturally without caffeine.

Ashton suggests drinking water, because sometimes dehydration is sensed by your body as fatigue, taking a walk around the block, sleeping well and snacking on protein snacks throughout the day.

"All of those are safe, low-risk ways to boost your energy," Ashton says. "This,(energy drinks) high risk."