Row erupts over energy drinks

Row erupts over energy drinks

Experts advising the Government have said there is not enough scientific evidence to warrant a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children. But dental paediatric consultant and past president of BSPD, Claire Stevens tweeted “I see first-hand the damage these sugar-loaded drinks cause to the teeth of my patients.”

But the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has found there was "insufficient evidence" as to whether children’s consumption habits are significantly different for energy drinks than for other caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee. But it said that concerns in society, and evidence from teachers, could "justify a ban." The MPs recommended more prominent labels, saying the drinks were not suitable for children.

Chairman of the cross-party committee, Norman Lamb, said they had heard a range of concerns which "varied from a lack of concentration in the classroom and hyperactivity, to the effects on physical health". He added it was "clear from the evidence we received that disadvantaged children are consuming energy drinks at a higher rate than their peers."

The MPs did find drinking energy drinks correlated with young people engaging in other risky behaviours such as drinking alcohol and smoking, but said it wasn’t "possible to determine whether there is any causal link". Norman Lamb said: "It would be legitimate for the Government to go beyond the evidence that is available at the moment and implement a statutory ban based on societal concerns and evidence, such as the experience of school teachers and pupils. If the Government decides to introduce a ban, it should explain why it has come to this decision."

BDA responds

The British Dental Association has expressed dismay that government advisors have concluded there is insufficient evidence to warrant a ban on sale of energy drinks to children. It said that sugary drinks are ‘fuelling an epidemic of decay’. The BDA says it believes that energy drinks should not be available for children to buy.

BDA chair Mick Armstrong said: "Dentists see the devastating impact energy drinks are having on children’s oral health every day. It is bizarre we are still having this debate over products that are habit forming, highly acidic and can come laced with 14 teaspoons of sugar – far more than a can of coke. No PR blitzes or tokenistic reformulations can distract from the fact industry cynically views children as a target market for these drinks. If the government is even half serious about prevention, they will take them off the menu."

Withdrawal symptoms

Teenagers get withdrawal symptoms when they are deprived of sugary drinks for three days, a study has found. Researchers from the University of California found that a group of teenagers who switched to milk and water reported headaches, less motivation to work, cravings for sugary drinks and lower overall wellbeing.

But Tom Sanders, professor emeritus of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, said the study was very small and that nine of the 25 participants did not fully comply with instructions. He added: “It is well established that consumption of sugary drinks is habit- forming but not addictive in the classical definition. It certainly does not warrant claims that sugar is addictive on a par with heroin or cocaine.”

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