Lets talk about Children and Energy Drinks
Research has revealed that children and teenagers are main consumers of energy drinks and that the UK is one of the biggest consumers in Europe
The study, carried out by the BMJ Open Journal, analysed the sugar, caffeine and carbohydrate content of some of the leading energy drinks. They found that the average amount of free sugar in these drinks was more than the entire recommended daily limit for an adult (30g). Too much ‘free sugar’ – sugar that is not naturally found in milk, fruit and vegetables – is linked to health problems including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay.
It is not only the sugar content that we need to be worried about, as these drinks have high caffeine levels as well. In many cases, one energy drink is the equivalent of two cups of coffee. Those who are more sensitive to caffeine (including children), or drink too much of it, may experience restlessness, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia or an upset stomach.
Laura Matthews, Jamie’s Oliver’s Head of Nutrition, has explained how these fizzy drinks could be damaging our health, and why they are especially bad for children. She claims that 69 percent of 10 to 18-year-olds in the UK say they consume energy drinks, with a shocking 13 percent saying they drink a whole litre (or more) in one sitting. These drinks are not only bad for children’s health, but they are linked to poorer attainment in school; teachers describe difficult conditions in the classroom, with some children on a high from their last energy drink whilst others are coming down.
Despite these drinks containing warning labels, children are still drinking them. Some children have energy drinks for breakfast while others are smuggling them into school to have at lunch. They feel the need to boost their energy with these stimulants and are becoming reliant on the sugar and caffeine.
Thankfully, people have started standing up and taking note and, from the beginning of March 2018, customers buying drinks containing more than 150mg of caffeine per litre in branches of Asda, Aldi, the Co-op, Lidl, Morrison’s, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Boots and Waitrose will be asked to prove they are over 16. But children will still find a way to get hold of them if they really want to – so surely the drink manufacturers should also take some level of responsibility too?
Age restrictions may reduce the number of children and teenagers drinking these high-sugar, high-caffeine drinks for now; but it might make them all the more tempting when children do reach an age where they can buy all the energy drinks they want. If we are to raise a generation who are able to make informed choices about their health, children and teenagers need to have good role models and be educated – at home and at school – about the risks of energy drinks.
This post was written by Claire Gillies