University of Waterloo in Canada have warned that energy drinks containing excess caffeine and sugar can lead to rapid heart rate, palpitations, headaches and even seizures in some rare instances. Their new study examined the risks posed by these drinks and appears in the latest issue of the journal CMAJ Open.
Prof David Hammond, a Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Waterloo, who led this study, said that till date the studies that examined the risks associated with these energy drinks were comparing them against coffee. The actual level of harm that these can cause was underestimated. He explained that these health risks come not only from the caffeine present in these energy drinks but also from other ingredients. The risks also stem from the ways in which these drinks are consumed. He said that many of the youth consume them during physical activity or along with alcohol. “Regardless, the findings suggest a need to increase surveillance of health effects from these products,” Prof Hammond said. The consumption of these drinks should be restricted among youth and children he said.
The team of researchers looked at 2,055 participants aged between 12 and 24 years in Canada. Of the ones that admitted to have consumed these energy drinks at some point, over half (55.4 percent) reported to have experienced at least one unpleasant side effect. Around a quarter (24.7 percent) noticed a raised heart rate and a quarter reported problems with sleep. A further 18 percent said they experienced headaches, five percent complained of diarrhea and vomiting and 3.6 percent experienced chest pain after consumption. A rare 0.2 percent of those who experienced side effects energy drinks suffered from a seizure. Of the youth surveyed across the country, nearly 74 percent admitted to have consumed energy drinks at some point in their lives.
According to Dr. Hammond, at present there are no laws that prevent children from buying these drinks at groceries and advertisements target the youth. Each 100ml of energy drinks contain around 80mg of caffeine that is same as a cup of instant coffee or three cans of Coca Cola according to the Food Standards Agency. A typical can contains around 500ml of the drink. Sugar levels may be higher. Experts have called for a ban on these drinks to children under 16. Waitrose has announced a ban on sale of drinks to those under 16 from 5th of March this year. All teenagers who wished to purchase a drink with over 150mg of caffeine per litre would require to present age proof they said. At present guidelines state that levels of caffeine need to be clear on the labels and those over 150mg of caffeine per litre should be labeled as unsuitable for kids.