School children consuming energy drinks

The energy drink market is currently estimated to be worth over £2 billion and research published this month by Fuse (the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health) has highlighted again the impact of energy drinks on our young children, with emphasis on relation to the caffeine and sugar content in these drinks. A typical 500ml energy drink can have 160mg of caffeine (akin to 2 shots of expresso coffee) and up to 15.6g of sugar, equivalent to 20 teaspoons.

The in-depth qualitative research focussed on children aged between 10 – 14 years old who shockingly are being drawn to these energy drinks as they are often cheaper then alternatives such as water, and even fizzy drinks. The children reported that they understood that energy drinks may not be as healthy as the alternative drinks on offer but were unaware exactly of how much sugar, or the impact of caffeine may have on their body. The children reported that they felt that sports drinks marketing was targeting them by holding special offers, advertising during tv adverts and sports sponsorship.

Previous research has shown that energy drinks can cause insomnia, palpitations and headaches in individuals. The researchers in this project feel that whilst the government are trying to tackle sugar consumption with the introduction of the sugar tax, more action is required for energy drinks due to the high levels of sugar and caffeine. This has been supported by the teachers’ union, NASUWT, who is proposing a ban on all energy drinks in schools to minimise the effects of detrimental behaviour in the classroom. A spokesman for NASUWT commented, “The NASUWT has always been clear that drinks with high levels of sugar should not be sold on school premises. It is time to look again at the School Food Standards, and the enforcement of the standards, to make sure that every school in the country is free of highly-caffeinated soft drinks, as well as those that are high in sugar.”