In a recent paper, researchers suggest it’s time to bring in laws to ban the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to children and young people in England.
This can help tackle the twin epidemics of obesity and mental health problems.
Children and young people in high-income countries consume more sugar and calories than required and are therefore unlikely to need additional energy.
This combined with regular caffeine consumption is concerning, as there is little evidence of the effect caffeine could potentially have on the developing body.
In a 2014 survey of over 5000 children in England, about 14% of 11-to-15-year-old teens reported having energy drinks at least 2-4 times a week, and 5% of all young people reported drinking energy drinks daily.
The high sugar content in many of these drinks (as much as 27g of sugar per 250ml serving) could contribute to the overall calorie excess and resultant obesity epidemic among our children.
The researchers also mention that caffeine is probably the most commonly used psychoactive drug across the world as it increases activity and heightens attention and awareness.
But caffeine also increases anxiety, reduces sleep and is linked to behavioral problems in children. Recent studies also show that it may have concerning effects on the developing brain.
Yet surprisingly little is known about the safety profile of caffeine.
Energy drinks can contain at least 320 mg/L of caffeine.
The evidence is emerging that consumption of energy drinks among children and young people is associated with anxiety, depression, sensation seeking, and increased hyperactivity and inattention.
This is alarming because psychological distress can lead to risky behaviors like drug use, and poorer academic attainment.
But perhaps most concerning are the effects on sleep, he says—a clear inverse association has been established between the consumption of caffeinated energy drinks and sleep duration.
Humans get energy naturally from a good diet, refreshing sleep, exercise and, most importantly, interaction with other people.
The researchers believe the government’s consultation must drive a search for improved evidence, but concludes there is now sufficient evidence to act to protect children.
The paper is published in The BMJ.
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