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Energy drink consumption increases risk of teenage mental health issues - study

Drinking energy drinks is associated with an increased risk of mental health issues among children and young people, a study has found (File picture) (PA Archive)
Drinking energy drinks is associated with an increased risk of mental health issues among children and young people, a study has found (File picture) (PA Archive)

Drinking energy drinks is associated with an increased risk of mental health issues among children and young people, a study has found.

Researchers found that energy drink consumption was linked with heightened anxiety and stress as well as an increased risk of poor academic performance and sleep problems.

Scientists at Teesside University and Newcastle University looked at data from 57 studies of over 1.2 million children and young people from more than 21 countries. All of the studies looked at the impact of energy drink consumption on health.

Boys were more likely to drink energy drinks, the study found, and consumption was associated with an increase in risky behaviours such as violence, binge drinking and unsafe sex.

Frequent consumers of energy drinks also reported heart palpitations, frequent urination, insomnia and headaches.

Energy drinks are usually defined as drinks with high levels of caffeine by the UK Food Standard Agency. Many are available in UK shops for as little as 99p.

Caffeine levels in a can of energy drink can vary between 80mg - equivalent to two cans of cola or a mug of instant coffee - and 200mg.

Lithuania and Latvia have both banned the sale of energy drinks to people aged under 18.

The UK government ran a consultation on ending the sale of energy drinks to children in England and also proposed this in their 2019 green paper ‘Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s’.

No further action was taken following the consultation, despite the majority of respondents backing a ban on the sale of energy drinks to under 16s.

More than 40 health organisations have joined the researchers in calling for regulatory action to restrict the sale and marketing of energy drinks to young people.

The study's lead author Amelia Lake, Professor of Public Health Nutrition Teesside University, said: “Energy drinks are marketed to children and young people as a way to improve energy and performance, but our findings suggest that they are actually doing more harm than good.

“We have raised concerns about the health impacts of these drinks for the best part of a decade after finding that they were being sold to children as young as 10-years-old for as little as 25p. That is cheaper than bottled water.

“The evidence is clear that energy drinks are harmful to the mental and physical health of children and young people as well as their behaviour and education. We need to take action now to protect them from these risks.”

The paper was published on Monday in the journal Public Health.

The Standard has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for comment.