Energy drinks cause dangerous side effects in half of young people, finds study

Participants reported rapid heartrates, chest pains and even seizures

Sarah Young
Monday 15 January 2018 15:08 GMT

Energy drinks have been found to cause negative side effects in half of young people, new research suggests.

Scientists from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada say that more should be done to restrict sales of the drinks to under 16s after a recent study found that 55 per cent of 12 to 24-year-olds reported negative health impacts, including rapid heartrates and seizures.

After quizzing 2,055 youngsters about how often they consume energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster, researchers said that they could potentially be more dangerous than other caffeinated drinks because of the way they are consumed.

Of those who consumed the drinks, the study found that nearly a quarter (24.7 per cent) said they had experienced a fast heartbeat or struggled sleeping (24.1 per cent), while 0.2 per cent even reported suffering seizures.

In addition, 18.3 per cent experienced headaches, 5.1 per cent reported nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, and a further 3.6 per cent reported experiencing chest pains.

But, perhaps the most concerning element is that the “vast majority” of those who experienced these adverse effects had consumed far less than the recommended maximum of one or two drinks.

“At the moment, there are no restrictions on children purchasing energy drinks, and they are marketed at the point-of-sale in grocery stores, as well as advertising that targets children,” said study lead Professor David Hammond.

“Most risk assessments to date have used coffee as a reference for estimating the health effects of energy drinks, however it is clear these products pose a greater health risk.

“The findings suggest a need to increase surveillance of health effects from these products.”

As a result of such concerns, campaigners in Britain, including chef Jamie Oliver, have urged the Government to ban selling energy drinks to children and it seems one supermarket is listening.

Earlier this month, Waitrose announced it is to ban the sale of high-caffeine energy drinks to children aged under 16.

From 5 March, customers buying drinks containing more than 150mg of caffeine per litre will be asked to prove their age.

“As a responsible retailer we want to sell these products in line with the labelling guidance,” said Simon Moore, Waitrose’s director of technical and corporate social responsibility.

“These drinks carry advice stating that they are not recommended for children, so we're choosing to proactively act on that guidance, particularly given the widespread concerns which have been raised about these drinks when consumed by under 16s.”

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