Recommendation from a new research on energy drinks that children should be banned from their consumption as they can cause high blood pressure, heart problems, obesity and even kidney damage, provides new impetus to an ongoing debate. The drinks also fuel risk-seeking behaviour such as alcohol and drugs abuse, accidents, violence and antisocial behaviour — on top of rotting teeth, according to the study published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health. Researchers say governments should regulate sales and marketing towards children and teenagers, and set upper limits on the amounts of caffeine they contain, to combat the growing public health issue.
The report does not name specific products. But it explains some can contain up to 100mg caffeine in every fluid ounce — eight times more than a regular cup of coffee at 12mg. A moderate daily intake of caffeine up to 400mg is recommended for adults, but little research exists on tolerable levels for youngsters. Dr Josiemer Mattei, assistant professor of nutrition based at the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, Boston, US, was of the view that energy drinks are harmful to health and should be limited through more stringent regulation by restricting their sales to children and adolescents, as well as setting an evidence-based upper limit on the amount of caffeine. Her findings follow a call by British scientists last year for the government to outlaw their sale and marketing to under 16s.
Dr Mattei’s latest analysis of current scientific knowledge found the advertised short-term benefits of energy drinks are outweighed by serious health risks. As energy drink consumption continues to grow worldwide, there is a need to thoroughly examine their advertised benefits, nutritional content and any negative effects on public health, according to the study. Most contain similar ingredients — water, sugar, caffeine, certain vitamins, minerals and stimulants such as guarana, taurine and ginseng that have no nutritional benefit. In the US alone, the energy drink industry has reached the $10bn annual turnover point, it is estimated.
Last year a survey led by Durham University, involving 16 European countries including the UK, found 68% of 11 to 18-year-olds and almost one in five under 10s consume energy drinks. And 12% of the younger group have downed at least a litre in a single session. It found sales of energy drinks in the UK increased by 155% between 2006 and 2014, from 235 to 600mn litres. The report said more research was needed on how the high levels of sugar and caffeine in energy drinks interact with each other and with other stimulants present such as taurine and guarana. A single can of popular brands on the market can contain around 160mg of caffeine, while the European Food Safety Authority recommends an intake of no more than 105mg of caffeine per day for an average 11-year-old. Nutritionists say the youngsters are raising their risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes, and tooth decay. The bottom line is that though energy drinks provide a quick energy boost, down the road they can cause serious health issues both physically and mentally.
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