Teens who consume too many energy drinks are also known to suffer from dehydration, tremors, heat stroke and heart attacks. Now the focus is on behavior. Are energy drinks turning teens into hyperactive, unhealthy, disobedient delinquents? Public perceptions seem to be shifting towards believing that.
In January, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver launched a campaign calling for a ban on sales of these drinks to children, and UK supermarkets wasted no time taking action. Waitrose was first, announcing plans to ban sales of the strongest drinks to under-16s. Others swiftly followed, vowing to introduce bans in March.
It seems common sense that a cocktail of stimulants will make kids hyperactive, but is there any actual evidence that energy drinks are harming children? The industry often compares the amount of caffeine in energy drinks to that in a cup of coffee, suggesting it must be safe. But new research suggests that the unique mix in energy drinks may pose higher risks.
An alarming increase in the consumption of sports and energy drinks, especially among adolescents, has been found to cause irreversible damage to teeth and erode tooth enamel.
Two research papers, suggest that concerns over levels of caffeine and sugar in energy drinks, and their effects on young people who drink them, are mounting.
Understanding what is in the beverages is key to managing that risk. Campaignersfor a ban say it is important to distinguish energy drinks from sports drinks. Sports drinks contain lots of sugar, plus electrolytes, and are designed to quench thirst and rehydrate you after heavy exercise. It is the sugar in sports drinks that tends to be of concern. High sugar intake poses long-term risks of obesity, dental cavities and type-2 diabetes.
What sets energy drinks apart is the combination of high sugar content and powerful stimulants, mainly caffeine, which rapidly and temporarily increases alertness, attention and energy in consumers. This can be followed by drowsiness and a slump when the effects wear off.
New evidence suggests that the unique mix in energy drinks may pose higher risks.
The FDA says they are powerless to change formulation of energy drinks. “We have no guidance or regulations that govern the formulation of energy drinks,” said FDA spokeswoman Susan Cruzan. The agency does not have the authority to do that. Cruzan said. “Under current law, the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that its products are safe and such products do not require FDA premarket review or approval.”
“There’s a tremendous amount of caffeine in these drinks,” Jeanna Marraffa, a clinical toxicologist at the Upstate New York Poison Center told USA TODAY. “I would say: know what’s in these products, have a sense of how much you’re consuming and realize they are not safe. Certainly you can have toxic effects from them.”
This sudden rush is reportedly causing problems in classrooms. In a survey of thousands of UK teachers in 2016, 13 percent blamed poor pupil behaviour on energy drinks. A 2015 study by Yale University found that students aged 11 to 14 who reported drinking energy drinks were 66 per cent more likely to be hyperactive or show a lack of concentration.