Energy drinks cause concern for health of young people

Increased consumption of energy drinks may pose danger to public health, especially among young people, warns a team of researchers from the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe in the open-access journal Frontiers in Public Health.

Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine, vitamins, and other ingredients for example, taurine, ginseng, and guarana. They are typically marketed as boosting energy and increasing physical and mental performance.

Researchers reviewed the literature on the health risks, consequences and policies related to energy drink consumption and found reason for concern and basis for further research. The authors conclude that “As energy drink sales are rarely regulated by age, unlike alcohol and tobacco, and there is a proven potential negative effect on children, there is the potential for a significant public health problem in the future”. European Food Safety Authority estimates that 30% of adults, 68% of adolescents, and 18% of children below 10 years consume energy drinks.

The authors suggest several actions to minimize the potential for harm from energy drinks:
  • Establishing an upper limit for the amount of caffeine allowed in a single serving of this type of drinks in line with available scientific evidence;
  • Regulations to enforce restriction of labelling and sales of energy drinks to children and adolescents;
  • Enforcing standards for responsible marketing to young people by the energy drink industry;
  • Training health care practitioners to be aware of the risks and symptoms of energy drinks consumption;
  • Patients with a history of diet problems and substance abuse, both alone and combined with alcohol, should be screened for the heavy consumption of energy drinks;
  • Educating the public about the risks of mixing alcohol with energy drinks  consumption;
  • Further research on the potential adverse effects of energy drinks, particularly on young people.
Energy drinks can be sold in all EU countries, but some countries have introduced regulations, including setting rules for sales to children. Hungary introduced a public health tax that includes energy drinks in 2012. In Sweden, sales of some types of energy drinks are restricted to pharmacies and sales to children are banned.