Having worked as a registered Dietitian in the NHS and community, I am profoundly aware of the risks involved with children consuming sugary and fizzy drinks, particularly the energy variety. Needless to say, these are extremely calorific (hence the ‘energy’ label), with most of the calories coming from sugar. Sugar is without doubt one of the main contributors to the rise and rise in childhood obesity, it is extremely damaging to children’s teeth, as well as giving rise to higher incidences of diabetes and high blood pressure in children. Add to this the hyperactivity sugar, some artificial sweeteners and caffeine can cause in this smaller, more vulnerable age group, and you have a recipe for disaster…literally!
How much sugar is in an energy drink?
An energy drink encompasses any beverage that is high in calories (energy), sugar and quite often caffeine and other stimulants. This ingredients list alone should be enough to deter parents from giving these to their children, but it’s not! If you consider that a 250ml can of soda can contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar, you can only imagine the effect this has on total calorie intake and dental caries.
Their survey said…
A survey conducted by the campaign and research group Action on Sugar found that children and adolescents are consuming more than 50% of their maximum recommended amount, with the largest contribution coming from sugary drinks. They also concluded that children were being - and I quote - “deceived” - unquote - into drinking large cans of energy drinks under the premise that it will improve their performance.
Consequently, researchers from Action on Sugar are calling for strict limits on added sugar. They bolster this assertion with the argument that a child or adult can (and should) generate energy from whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, pasta and rice, hence there should be no reason for additional sugar on top of this. The Food Standards Agency (FSA), nutritional advisors to the government have long said that children in particular should look to reduce their total intake of sugar. This is nothing new, and there is absolutely no reason at all why the sugar in these drinks couldn’t be reduced. This is evidenced by competitor beverages containing much less sugar than others, which proves that it’s possible, so why not remove it completely!?
Ban the sale of sugar and caffeine based energy drinks in under 16’s. As abrupt as this may sound I fail to see a reason why not. Desperate times warrant desperate measures, and children often lack the knowledge and presence of mind to read labels and interpret the information on them. I think we need to remove the availability of high energy drinks to children, granted the policing of this would be tough, for example a young athlete may be using these beverages appropriately, but the sugar content makes them a real risk for those that lack the guidance.
BBC News Health, (2015). Energy drinks should be banned for under 16’s. Retrieved 2nd March, 2015, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-31623771