Energy drinks may cause ADHD, anxiety and depression in children, study finds


Energy drinks may seem like a harmless treat for young people, but a new study published in the journal Public Health suggests they are anything but, especially in large quantities.

After a systematic review of 57 previous studies involving 1.2 million children in 21 countries, researchers from the University of Newcastle in the United Kingdom reported that energy drink consumption among young people is linked to poor quality poor sleep and short sleep duration, as well as lower academic performance than young people. non-energy drinkers.

Consumption of energy drinks was also associated with an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, psychological distress, depression, anxiety, insulin resistance and dental problems.

Furthermore, this study, which was an update of a 2016 review, also confirmed the previous study’s findings that there is a strong positive correlation between energy drink consumption and smoking, alcohol consumption. alcohol, excessive alcohol consumption and the use of other substances.

Cesar Sauza, a registered dietitian nutritionist at who was not involved in the research, praised the study design and said the results echoed what he had seen in his own practice.

“The results are not surprising,” Sauza told Medical News today. “In clinical practice, I have seen energy drinks negatively affect children’s academic performance, likely due to impaired sleep. Another reason the results aren’t surprising is that most energy drinks are high in sugar and caffeine, both of which have negative effects on children when consumed in excess.

“The review had strict inclusion criteria and excluded 48 of the original 103 which were considered ‘poor quality’,” he added. “Regardless of design, systematic reviews like this should not be used as hard evidence, but as evidence justifying the need for further longitudinal studies specifically examining the effects of energy drinks on children over the long term. term. »

That said, the Newcastle researchers said their findings were strong enough – given that they were based on repeated analyzes of previous quality research – to suggest policy changes that could come into effect to improve children’s health.

“We have raised concerns about the health impacts of these drinks for almost a decade after discovering they were being sold to children as young as 10 years old. [and] cheaper than bottled water,” said Amelia Lake, PhD, professor of public health nutrition at Fuse, the Center for Translational Public Health Research at Teesside University in England, in a press release. press. “It is clear that energy drinks are harmful to the mental and physical health of children and young people, as well as their behavior and education. We must act now to protect them from these risks.

What is in an energy drink?

This is far from the first study to suggest a link between energy drink consumption and negative health effects.

Previous studies have shown that energy drinks can lead to an increase in heart attacks and heart disease risk factors. Others have pointed out the negative effects of sugar crashes and caffeine withdrawal associated with energy drinks.

It is not always clear what is in an energy drink, as there is no agreed-upon standard regarding what an “energy drink” is, although the United States Food and Drug Administration calls it “a class of products in liquid form that generally contain caffeine, with or without other added ingredients.”

These other ingredients usually include sugar and often other legal stimulants such as guarana and taurine.

According to data from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, energy drinks can typically contain as little as 75 milligrams (mg) of caffeine – a little less than an average cup of coffee – but up to 316 mg per 8 ounces, the equivalent of more than three cups of coffee.

Panera’s large “Charged Lemonade,” linked to the deaths of two people, contained 390 mg of caffeine. Although it was not labeled as an energy drink, it had two characteristics: high levels of caffeine and sugar.

Before regulations come into play, the most important people who can help limit children’s energy drink consumption and help them understand the risks are their parents, experts say.

“Given the significant link between energy drink consumption and increased risk behaviors, a holistic intervention approach is needed,” said Dr. Menka Gupta, co-founder of NutraNourish who was not involved in the study. Medical news today. “We need to address the psychological and behavioral predispositions of young people. The increased prevalence of serious mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD symptoms, further highlights the importance of addressing this problem.

She also said that when communicating with their children, guardians must be specific and practice what they preach.

“Parents should communicate, when possible, the specific health risks associated with energy drinks and their mechanisms,” Gupta said. “Their own behavior must be consistent with the advice they give to children, because it is a stronger signal than simple verbal signals. Having an open dialogue about peer pressure can also be helpful.

This article is originally published on


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