Medical professionals are sounding alarms over “gaming supplements” — products marketed to video gamers of all ages — that promise to “fuel” their gaming and supposedly allow the users to play longer, focus more intensely and achieve better results.
These products contain caffeine, which — if consumed in too great a quantity — may be harmful for children or teens.
In 2017, 16-year-old Davis Allen Cripe of South Carolina consumed a large Diet Mountain Dew, a café latte from McDonald’s and an energy drink all in a span of two hours, later collapsing and dying from a “caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia,” as Fox News Digital reported in May 2017. (Fox News is not aware of whether Cripe had any other medical conditions that may have contributed to his death.)
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One popular brand of gaming supplement on the market today is G FUEL. The marketing for the “energy formula” often reflects the language of young gamers.
‘Energy, focus and endurance’
“As you step through the unlocked door of your Vault to venture into The Wastelands for the first time, remember to try to find items that will help you along the way!” the website informs visitors.
It continues, “You’ll be chased by mud crabs, feral Ghouls, Raiders with pool sticks and big, ugly Mutants. Be sure to search inside everything — including Vault-Tec lunchboxes — to find the new G FUEL Nuka Cola Quantum Tub — inspired by 25 years of Fallout!”
Friendly, animated characters shown on the site say that the product offers “energy,” “focus,” “endurance” and “reaction.”
G FUEL is also selling a “Gummy Worms Doodlez Collectors Box” and a “Candy Corn Pumpkin Bundle,” which comes with “fuel” — meaning the supplement — and a 16 oz. shaker.
The site, in its FAQ section, explains that “G FUEL products are made with natural ingredients and are sugar-free, gluten-free, and packed with antioxidants and B-vitamins. But as is the case with any caffeinated product, moderation is key when it comes to G FUEL Energy.”
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It also provides a phone number to call for those who are “still unsure whether or not” they can consume the product.
“We will be more than happy to answer any questions or concerns you have!” it also says.
Fox News Digital reached out to G FUEL for comment.
One mom of two who lives outside Boston told Fox News Digital that one of her kids, an adolescent, is “into gaming.”
She said, “If I let him, he would absolutely take one of these supplements — kids don’t ever read a warning label. Plus, [they’d do] anything to have an edge in order to win, in their minds.”
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The product label for G FUEL indicates the powder contains 140 mg. of caffeine per scoop, with a serving size of approximately one scoop.
By comparison, one 8.4 oz. Red Bull contains approximately 80 mg. of caffeine, per its website.
“We suggest starting out with one serving a day to see how it feels,” reads the G FUEL website, “and then increasing from there based on how much energy you need. For our 300 mg canned products, we recommend you do not exceed one serving per day.”
ADVANCED.gg, another popular gaming supplement, advises customers to “scoop,” “shake” and “drink” — and it offers its “Advanced Premium 26 oz. Ice Shaker” for over $40.
Too much gaming, too much caffeine and too little sleep can be a “trifecta” of bad and potentially dangerous habits, said one health expert.
“ADVANCED.gg is one of the most globally recognized brands in gaming and digital entertainment,” the company states on the website.
It also says that “ADVANCED.gg Focus” — one of its products — “does contain stimulants and should be consumed in moderation.”
‘Responsibility for intake rests on the consumer’
ADVANCED.gg does not feel that there is “any greater or lesser potential than any other caffeinated product” for harm, marketing director Richard Ng told Fox News Digital in emailed comments.
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“One customizes caffeine intake with coffee, colas and energy drinks simply by drinking more or fewer cans or cups,” said Ng. “We believe responsibility for intake rests on the consumer as it is something that no one can control.”
He also said, “We include health warnings around caffeine intake on our labels with focus on those with caffeine sensitivity. Additionally, our staff are trained to clearly communicate our recommended intake guidelines” — and he noted that the median customer age is 25.
“We also avoid engaging in any trends related to off-label consumption such as dry-scooping or mixing with alcohol,” Ng said.
“Again, while no one can ultimately control a consumer’s personal habits, we don’t engage in showcasing manners of consumption that are outside of what we outline on our labels,” said the company spokesperson.
There is no age limit to purchase or consume such products, as visits to these websites revealed.
“Sleep is not only restorative for the body. Important functions occur during sleep that are crucial to brain development, maturity, memory and emotional regulation”
“Our flagship product, FOCUS, has an MSRP of $44.99,” said Ng.
“This is a higher price point than most products in our category and is part of our overall strategy to target older consumers in the category,” he also said. “Our sales channels focus on direct-to-consumer as well as Amazon, which also both require credit cards for purchase.”
Neither ADVANCED.gg nor G FUEL has been accused of or implicated in any wrongdoing or regulatory violations in connection with the marketing of their products.
Concerns about too much caffeine
Too much gaming, too much caffeine and too little sleep can be a “trifecta” of bad and potentially dangerous habits, said Deborah W. Busch, an assistant professor at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and coordinator of its Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Primary Care Program.
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“Each issue separately has its own effects on children and adolescents and intertwined together, is a trifecta ‘storm’ on developing children’s brains, growth, development and overall health,” she told Fox News Digital in an email.
“Children should spend one-third of their day sleeping,” she said.
“Sleep is not only restorative for the body. Important functions occur during sleep that are crucial to brain development, maturity, memory and emotional regulation,” she also said.
Sleep also aids in “circadian rhythm for day and night bodily functions,” she noted, as well as “immunity and improved behavior” in children.
Insufficient sleep due to overuse of caffeine “can possibly lead to increases in risk of accidents, hypertension, heart palpitations and increased heart rate, obesity and diabetes,” Busch underscored, as well as “possible mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.”
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Caffeine has a direct effect on the brain, “telling it to not sleep, and it also interferes with the REM sleep cycle,” she continued.
“It prolongs wakefulness and reduces the amount of sleep children should have each night.”
“Although many people believe caffeine is simply a stimulant, the truth is it’s much more than that.”
Busch noted that school-age children (6-12 years old) should get 9-12 hours of sleep a night, and teens (13-18 years old) should have 8-10 hours a night, referring to American Academy of Sleep Medicine guidelines.
The Boston-area mom said that kids staying up late into the night with a video game controller in their hands is already “unhealthy,” in her view — and that adding caffeine to the mix can be a “disaster.”
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“Kids are no doubt putting these gaming energy drink ‘bundles’ on their Christmas lists and saving up for them, and it is up to parents to deny them access to these supplements until they are of appropriate age to physically and mentally handle them,” she said.
Nurse practitioner Busch discussed the negative effects that caffeine can have on growing children with both parents and kids — and “how it is hidden in many of these so-called ‘healthy energy drinks.'”
“Be careful of any online purchasing of powdered drinks, too, which are more condensed and concentrated,” she added.
“These manufacturers are purposely trying to market to children and teens with their graphics and flavors, so of course they will want to drink them — especially if their friends are [drinking them], too.”
Sleep is critical to growth and health
A sleep specialist weighed in on the gaming supplements that are sold today as well.
“As a sleep coach and mother, I am dismayed that caffeinated beverages are being marketed to children,” Alaina Ross, a registered nurse, sleep coach and co-founder of Sleep Family, from Auburn, California, told Fox News Digital by email.
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Sleep Family is an organization dedicated to providing free and authoritative resources for individuals with sleep and wellness issues.
“Although many people believe caffeine is simply a stimulant, the truth is it’s much more than that,” Ross said.
“Caffeine is a drug that has physiological effects on your body. In other words, it impacts how your body functions, and unfortunately, for children, their sensitivity to caffeine is even greater.”
In children, caffeine can disrupt not just the quantity of sleep but its quality, said Ross.
“Parents, talk with your kids.”
“Sleep plays a crucial role in the development of young minds,” she said.
“It has a direct effect on cognitive performance, vocabulary acquisition, memory consolidation and motor skill development.”
Ross added that if children do not get enough sleep, “their moods tend to change rapidly” and they have “difficulty paying attention.”
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She also noted that inadequate sleep in early childhood has been linked to allergic rhinitis, anxiety, depression and problems with the immune system.
For Busch of Johns Hopkins, it comes back to parents taking the reins with their child.
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“Parents, talk with your kids,” she advised.
“This gives you an opportunity to discuss the power of marketing and the targeting of youth with harmful advertising — and about products that really are of no benefit to them, and do not help them now or in the future to become healthy adults,” said Busch of Johns Hopkins.
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