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Up to a third of UK children consume at least one energy drink a week, new research suggests

Posted on 7 February 2022

Up to a third of children in the UK are consuming at least one energy drink a week, with high levels of consumption linked to headaches, sleep problems, alcohol use, smoking, irritability and school exclusion, new research reveals.

The study found that in the UK, working-class children from the North of England drink more than any other group.

In a study carried out by the University of York and University College London, researchers found evidence that children who drank energy drinks on five or more days per week were more likely to have low psychological, physical, educational and overall well-being.

The study analysed data on thousands of UK children, in addition to reviewing evidence on children’s consumption of energy drinks from around the world. The findings suggest that boys drink more than girls, and that in the UK, working-class children from the North of England drink more than any other group.

Wellbeing

An average 250 ml energy drink contains a similar amount of caffeine to a 60 ml espresso. The European Food Safety Authority proposes a safe level of 3 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight per day for children and adolescents. Many energy drinks also contain other potentially active ingredients, such as guarana and taurine, and more sugar than other soft drinks.

Lead author of the paper, Claire Khouja, from the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York, said: “While more research is needed to track the effects of energy drinks on children who drink them, our research has uncovered consistent evidence of links between the regular consumption of these drinks and harmful effects on children’s overall wellbeing."

Education

“Our study also indicates that children who are better informed about the contents of energy drinks, drink less, suggesting that education could reduce drinking.”

Following the consultation of which the study is part, in July the Government announced plans to introduce a ban on energy drink sales to children.

Consumption and effects of caffeinated energy drinks in young people: an overview of systematic reviews and secondary analysis of UK data to inform policy is published in BMJ Open. The study was carried out by NIHR Policy Research Programme Reviews Facility, a collaboration between the University of York, University College London and the London School of Hygiene and and Tropical Medicine.

 

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About this research

Consumption and effects of caffeinated energy drinks in young people: an overview of systematic reviews and secondary analysis of UK data to inform policy is published in BMJ Open. The study was carried out by NIHR Policy Research Programme Reviews Facility, a collaboration between the University of York, University College London and the London School of Hygiene and and Tropical Medicine.

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