You may have read recently about a child in Wales who needed to have their stomach pumped after a 'cardiac episode' as a result of consuming a well-known brand of energy drink which has been promoted by YouTube influencers.
Many health experts have expressed their concerns over children and young people consuming such energy drinks, which are marketed to improve concentration and feelings of tiredness, and can contain as much caffeine as three cups of coffee, plus high levels of artificial sweeteners and plant-based stimulants.
Caffeine consumption in adults can result in increased alertness, dizziness, anxiety and even insomnia. However in children and young people who are much more sensitive to caffeine, a lower dose can have a much more pronounced effect.
A recent study of 13 to 15 year adolescents in Finland found a clear correlation between energy drink consumption frequency, and various negative health indicators, including alcohol and substance abuse, insomnia, unhealthy diet, increased sedentary behaviours such as video gaming and screen time and even problematic use of social media.
There is also concern amongst experts that as caffeine interferes with the absorption of calcium in the small intestine, this may lead to calcium deposition in the bones of those consuming higher levels, affecting bone density in later life.
Interestingly, a small town in Western Australia is banning under 18s from purchasing energy drinks as part of a four month research trial. Doctors in the area noticed a decline in young people's mental health, and a definite spike in levels of insomnia and anxiety that appear to be associated with energy drink consumption, the results of which are expected to be available later in the year.
Perhaps even more worryingly, manufacturers are selling 'hydration' drinks alongside 'energy' drinks in very similar packaging, meaning that young people could unwittingly consume large amounts of caffeine. Health experts are now calling for much clearer labelling, as the two types of drink can be very difficult to tell apart.
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