Energy drinks should be banned for under-16s and here’s why!

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A health campaign group has called for the sale of ‘energy’ drinks to youngsters to be banned, after its research found that some products contained up to 20 teaspoons of sugar – more than three times the maximum an adult should consume in a day (25g/6 tsps).

Out of a total of 197 energy drinks surveyed by Action on Sugar, 78% of these would receive a ‘red’ (high) label for sugars per serving – with about half (101) containing the same amount or more sugars than Coca Cola per 100ml – the equivalent of a massive 9 teaspoons of sugar per 330ml can.

Per portion, the worst offender was Rockstar Punched Energy + Guava, which contained 20 teaspoons of sugar per 500ml can (78g).

Per 100ml, examples of high sugar energy drinks included:

Sainsbury’s Orange Energy Drink (1L) – 15.9g
Rockstar Juiced Energy with mango, orange and passion fruit – 15.2g
Red Devil Energy Drink – 15g
Lucozade Energy Pink Lemonade/Caribbean Crush – 14g

The level of sugars in a typical can is alarming. Children are being deceived into drinking large cans of these drinks, thinking it will improve their performance at school and during sports. In reality all they are doing is increasing their risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes or dental caries which will have lifelong implications on their health. Type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, limb amputation and kidney dialysis – hardly the image of a healthy, active person.

Energy drinks in particular should have no part in children’s diets. The body can generate energy, glucose (a type of sugar) from any food, such as fruits, vegetables, breads, pasta and rice and there is no need whatsoever for added sugars.

There is no reason why energy drinks need to be high in sugars, indeed there are similar products on the market with much less sugar; for example Monster Khaos Energy + Juice contains 7.8g/100ml, about 50% less sugar than the highest sugar containing energy drinks.

Sugar-free options are available from some manufacturers, which suggest that sugar itself is not essential to boost energy. But be aware, these still contain high levels of caffeine or other stimulants, so are not a ‘healthy’ option, particularly for children and teenagers. Alarmingly many of these products do not clearly label the exact caffeine content per serving, which is a scandal in itself but where it is labelled, some products contain as much as two cups of coffee. Would any parent give their child two cups of coffee?

It is important parents play a part in protecting their children from drinking these products but the government needs to help parents by banning the sale of these products to children under-16.

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