Children who regularly drink energy drinks are at high risk of developing cardiovascular complications, new evidence suggests.

Latest research conducted at Newcastle University and Teesside University has found that drinking cheap energy drinks is also associated with depression, anxiety and suicidal feelings.

In addition, the highly caffeinated drinks can also increase a child’s risk of experiencing ADHD symptoms, severe stress and poor sleep quality.

Experts are now campaigning for energy drinks to be banned for children as they can cause serious damage.

Cans of Prime, Monster and Red Bull contain 150mg of caffeine – 60mg more than a 250ml cup of coffee.

Children who drink energy drinks are more likely to gain weight due to the cans containing up to 21 teaspoons of sugar.

During the study, a team of researchers examined 57 studies to assess how energy drinks impact children and young people.

They found that energy drinks are more commonly drank by boys than girls. The results also show that people frequently consuming energy drinks are more likely to have a high BMI, high blood pressure and heart rhythm problems.

Additionally, children who drink energy drinks are more at risk of developing an eating disorder or depression.

Young people are also more likely to smoke, vape and drink alcohol if they have a high intake of energy drinks, the study has reported.

Regular urination, tooth decay and asthma are also associated with energy drinks, the researchers have revealed.

First author Dr Shelina Visram said: “We are deeply concerned about the findings that energy drinks can lead to psychological distress and issues with mental health.

“These are important public health concerns that need to be addressed. There has been policy inaction on this area despite Government concern and public consultations.”

Fellow author Professor Amelia Lake said: “It is time that we have action on the fastest growing sector of the soft drink market.

“We have raised concerns about the health impacts of these drinks for the best part of a decade after finding that they were being sold to children as young as 10-years-old for as little as 25p. That is cheaper than bottled water.”

She added: “The evidence is clear that energy drinks are harmful to the mental and physical health of children and young people as well as their behaviour and education. We need to take action now to protect them from these risks.”

Prior studies have reported that roughly 30% of kids in the UK consume energy drinks every week, which is the highest rate in Europe.

Latvia and Lithuania are amongst the nations in Europe that have already enforced regulations on energy drinks by restricting sales to children.

Rules currently enforced in the UK include that energy drinks containing more than 150mg of caffeine must be labelled as high in caffeine.

A child suffered a ‘cardiac episode’ last year and ended up having their stomach pumped after they drank Prime Energy – a popular energy drink launched by the YouTubers Logan Paul and KSI.

William Roberts, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “Energy drinks can be harmful to children and young people’s physical and mental health, both in the short and long-term.

“That’s why we need the UK Government to step up and deliver on its 2019 commitment to ban sales of energy drinks to under-16s.”

He added: “In doing so it would not only be following the evidence, but also following the example of countries that have already restricted sales to children, a move supported by the majority of the public.”

Barbara Crowther, Children’s Food Campaign Manager at Sustain, said: “It’s not right that companies are profiting from energy drinks when evidence shows they’re harming children and young people’s health.

“These concerning findings should prompt our Government to act. But they’ve been disappointingly silent on the issue for the past five years.”

She added: “Over that time, energy drinks companies have increasingly targeted young people with even higher caffeine content drinks, putting more of them at risk.

“We need our government to step up and follow through with their planned restriction of sales of these drinks to under 16s.”

Gavin Partington, Director General at the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA), said: “The BSDA’s voluntary Code of Practice on energy drinks, which was introduced by and for BSDA members in 2010, contains a number of stringent points on responsible marketing, meaning members do not market or promote energy drinks to under-16s, nor do they sample products with this age group.

“In addition, our members’ energy drinks carry on advisory note stating ‘not recommended for children.’ BSDA members remain committed to supporting the responsible sale of energy drinks.”

The study was published in the journal Public Health.

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