Energy drinks should be regarded as a public health risk, says the World Health Organisation, which wants doctors to be vigilant for signs of caffeine intoxication, withdrawal and dependence.
The organisation wants tighter controls for the drinks, which are becoming increasingly popular with children and adolescents around the world.
The labelling, distribution and sale of the drinks should be better regulated, say WHO researchers.
The most popular brands in Australia are Red Bull, V and Mother.
The researchers conducted a literature review that shows concerns in the scientific community about the potential adverse health effects of the popular products are “broadly valid”.
“The risks of heavy consumption of energy drinks among young people have largely gone unaddressed and are poised to become a significant public health problem in the future,” they
write in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.
They say there is a case to seriously consider sales restrictions for children and adolescents.
Doctors should also be equipped to educate families and children on the potential consequences of excessive consumption.
Patients with a history of diet problems or substance abuse are a particular risk group.
The studies in the review suggest caffeine intoxication can lead to heart palpitations, hypertension, nausea and vomiting, convulsions, psychosis, and in rare cases, death.
“In 2007, a man in Australia was reported to have suffered cardiac arrest after consuming seven to eight cans of an energy drink while taking part in vigorous physical activity,” the researchers report.
Deaths have also occurred in the US and Sweden, they say.
The authors note outright bans of the drinks in Denmark, Turkey, Norway, Uruguay and Iceland. In Sweden sales of some products are restricted to pharmacies and sales to children under 15 are banned.
“As energy drink sales are rarely regulated by age, like alcohol and tobacco, and there is a proven negative effect of caffeine on children, there is the potential for a significant public health problem in future,” the authors note.
Adapted from Amanda Davey’s article “No Bull, Energy Drinks are a Mother of a Problem” for 6Minutes.
Disclaimer: The above article is not intended as medical advice and is not necessarily representative of Alive and Kicking Medical Practices’ beliefs or philosophies. The intention of this article is simply to share ideas, thoughts and theories currently being explored within medical and scientific communities. You should always speak with your doctor or a qualified medical practitioner before starting, ceasing, or altering medical treatment.