Research group Action on Sugar is asking that the sale of energy and sports drinks be banned for UK children under the age of 16.
According to a survey of nutritional labels found on 197 energy drinks sold both online and in major grocery stores, some of the beverages had up to 20 teaspoons of sugar, or more than three times the maximum amount that an adult should consume in one day. Around 80% of the drinks examined were given a “red” label for their high amounts of sugar. Over half of the drinks contained the same as or more sugar than is found in Coca-Cola.
The group argues that the beverages are being advertised to children under the false pretense that the drinks will help their performance in sports or in school, when they merely create an addiction to caffeine in the children who consume them. As for long-term effects, the group said that the beverages are “fuelling the obesity epidemic”.
The drinks used for this study had the words “energy”, “energise”, “energising”, “caffeine” and “stimulation” in their names, or were in the energy drink section of supermarket websites.
The beverage with the highest level of sugar was Sainsbury’s Orange Energy Drink, which had 15.9g per 100 ml of sugar, or 20 teaspoons in every 500ml. Rockstar Punched Energy + Guava Tropical Guava Flavour came in second with 15.6g of sugar per 100ml. Coca Cola has 10.6g per 100ml.
According to Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar and professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, children are increasing their risk of developing obesity or type 2 diabetes, which could lead to lifelong issues for their health including blindness, limb amputation and kidney dialysis.
Kawther Hashem, nutritionist at Action on Sugar, added: “The levels of sugar in a typical can is disgraceful. Free sugars increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental caries and we need to protect children and teenagers from drinking these products.”
Meanwhile, the British Soft Drinks Association maintains their belief that children are not the target of these companies.
“These products are called energy drinks for a reason – they deliver a caffeine or glucose-based energy boost. They are now available in a variety of types, flavours and sizes – including a range of low and no calorie options – so consumers have a much wider choice. BSDA members do not promote energy drinks to children under 16 and all products are clearly labelled in compliance with EU regulations.”