Children drink high energy drinks. They are cheaper than water or pop.
Some think that being seen drinking a can of Monster or Red Bull is quite the thing and looks good on social media.
Research has shown that more than two-thirds of 10-17 year olds and a staggering quarter of 6-9 year olds neck the stuff. UK youngsters are among the highest consumers of energy drinks in Europe.
The thing is, these drinks are not safe for children to drink because they “are associated with a range of negative effects and unhealthy behaviours, including physical health complaints, such as headaches, palpitations and insomnia, and higher rates of alcohol, smoking and drug use.”
The drinks contain lots of ingredients including high levels of caffeine and sugar which can in the short-term can cause headaches on withdrawal, irritability, raised blood pressure and heart-rate.
Regular or heavy energy drink use is likely to be detrimental to health and studies have identified links with common health complaints such as headaches, stomach aches and sleeping problems.
Although responsible retailers don’t sell high energy drinks to their under 16 customers, they are readily available and children can be seen swigging on tins. Boys and girls appear to purchase and consume these drinks for different reasons, e.g. boys for image, girls often to replace meals.
Visram et al (2017) found that “Taste, price, promotion, ease of access and peer influences were all identified as key factors in children and young people’s consumption choices.”
Convenience stores and vending machines are easy places to purchase them. Failing that, many just get someone older to buy them.
Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine, usually about 80mg in a 250ml can. Others contain much more.
In comparison, a 330ml can of classic Coca-Cola contains 32mg and a can of Diet Coke 42mg. So what’s the safe amount of caffeine to consume?
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) points to a safe level of three milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of body weight per day for habitual caffeine consumption by children and adolescents.
Many young consumers think they know the risks associated with drinking high energy drinks but their understanding is likely to be limited.
We need to protect all young consumers and particularly the most vulnerable such as children with learning disabilities – they are very susceptible consumers who may not understand the health issues.
It’s easy to demonise energy drinks but they can provide provide functional benefits by boosting energy and alertness but that’s in adults.
The UK government are to ban the sale of energy drinks to under 16s but not everyone agrees that this is fair as a ban on one category of the soft drink market would be illiberal, discriminatory and disproportionate.
Vox Pop, written by Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs says in his report, that the government is unfairly targeting teenagers and there was a lack of scientific evidence linking high energy drinks to negative behaviours. He says,
The government has never explained why, if it is appropriate to ban the sale of energy drinks to minors because of their (sometimes) high sugar content, it is not banning the sale of other food and drink products which have more sugar in them. Nor has it explained why, if it is appropriate to ban the sale of energy drinks to minors because of their caffeine content, it is not banning the sale of other similarly caffeinated beverages to minors.