News

Academic talks energy drinks at Commons Select Committee

Dr Amelia Lake, Associate Director of Fuse, has given evidence to the Science and Technology Committee on the effects of energy drinks on young people’s mental and physical health.

The Commons Select Committee ensures that government policy and decision-making is based on good scientific advice and evidence. The latest meeting called on experts from a number of disciplines, including education, paediatric healthcare and dietetics, and members of the soft drinks and retail industries.

The committee is looking at what current action is being taken on the sale of energy drinks to children and whether regulation has a role to play, such as the introduction of a legal age restriction for the drinks.

Dr Lake, Reader in Public Health Nutrition at Teesside University, told the committee that children as young as ten were consuming energy drinks, sometimes as meal replacements, often because of the positive connotations associated with the word ‘energy’. She also explained that the drinks exceeded the amount of caffeine that was safe for children to consume and stressed that she would support a total ban on the sale of energy drinks to under-16s.

Gamification, where a product becomes a part of the game, was also a concern raised by Dr Lake. She told the Committee that there was a trend for video games, cars and sports to be sponsored or associated with energy drinks.

Earlier this year, Fuse researchers involved in the energy drinks studies called on the government to consider restricting the sale of the drinks to under-16s after research revealed that they were being sold to children ‘cheaper than water and pop’.

The research was led by Dr Shelina Visram (Newcastle University), in collaboration with Dr Mandy Cheetham (Teesside University), Dr Stephen Crossley (Northumbria University) and Dr Lake. Their study highlighted the dangers of energy drinks, which typically contain high levels of caffeine and sugar, with evidence indicating that regular or heavy use by under-18s is likely to be detrimental to health.

Energy drink consumption by young people is a significant health concern. Studies have shown that more than two-thirds of young people surveyed in the UK had consumed energy drinks within the past year and that young people in the UK drink more energy drinks than those in any other European countries.

Dr Lake said: “Many large retailers have already taken steps not to sell energy drinks to children under 16, but many stores still continue to sell to young people, including convenience stores which offer a wide range of brands, flavours and package sizes.

“Legislation to prevent the sales of energy drinks to under-16s would be helpful, however the marketing of these drinks to young people through computer games and their association with sports is a much wider issue.”

 

The Fuse research was supported by The Children's Foundation Child Health Research Programme.

 Watch the Committee take evidence on energy drinks

Last modified: Tue, 19 Jun 2018 13:10:27 BST