A HEALTH watchdog has warned energy drinks are not suitable for children, and has called for an awareness campaign around the health risks associated with drinking the caffeine-spiked drinks.
A new report by Safefood has found a “massive” increase in the availability of energy drinks in Ireland since 2002. Energy drinks and sports drinks now make up more than 20 per cent of the soft drinks market.
Young men aged 15-24 are the highest consumers of the sugary drinks– some which have 16 teaspoons of sugar in one can. And over half of those who drink them do so at least once a week.
Safefood’s Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan said: “Safefood reiterate that energy drinks are not suitable for children under 16 or for rehydration purposes following sport.
“Furthermore, the marketing of these products should be undertaken without any ambiguity or association with sport or alcohol.
“An awareness campaign of the potential health issues, targeted specifically at young people, is something that needs to happen.”
Young people mixing alcohol with energy drinks is putting a strain on emergency services.
GP Dr Ciara Kelly explained: “Mixing an energy drink which is a stimulant, with alcohol which is a depressant, is like driving a car with your feet on the accelerator and brake pedals at the same time; it stimulates a person so they actually end up drinking for longer as they may not be aware how drunk they really are.
“GP surgeries and our A&E Departments have to deal with the effects of mixing energy drinks with alcohol. The cheap price, easy availability, aggressive marketing and consumption of these products bluntly show how far from responsible the industry truly is and why we need to ask ourselves some hard questions when it comes to their use.“
What happens to your body when you glug an energy drink:
Last year the Mayo Clinic investigated what happens to your body when you drink energy drinks. Two groups of young adults drank either a 473-ml can of a Rockstar energy drink or a placebo drink.
Those who drank the energy drink saw:
- An increase in blood pressure by 6.4 percent.
- The caffeine in their blood increased from undetectable to 3.4 micrograms.
- Norepinephrine level (the stress hormone, which can give you the shakes when you have too much caffeine) in blood– increased from 150 pg/mL to 250 pg/ML.
There was no significant difference in heart rate increase between the two groups but the researchers said that these changes may predispose those who drink just one drink to increased cardiovascular risk.
The dangers of drinking too many:
The high sugar and caffeine content in energy drinks poses many health risks to those who drink energy drinks and deaths have been linked to drinking too much.
A typical small 250 ml can has sugar levels of six teaspoons per can, the entire daily recommended intake of sweet stuff for an adult. Too much sugar leads to obesity, diabetes and chronic diseases.
Drinking two small cans and one small espresso of coffee drives an adult’s daily caffeine intake above recommended levels. Too much caffeine increases heart rate and blood pressure. It dehydrates and has behavioural and cognitive effects.
Last year Scientists at the Research Institute of Hospital 12 de Octubre in Madrid warned that energy drinks can trigger sudden cardiac deaths in young, apparently healthy individuals.
Many stimulant drinks contain guarana – a native South American plant containing guaranine– similar to caffeine. There are reports in the literature of toxicosis (a diseased condition resulting from poisoning) associated with guarana in experimental animals but the information is limited.