Are Energy Drinks a Candy and Caffeine Fix for Kids?

Health Writer

It may be time to take a page from the United Kingdom playbook of nutrition.   Action on Sugar, a UK campaign group recently released a study that highlighted the average nutrition components of energy drinks sold in the UK. It noted the drinks have 20 teaspoons of sugar in every 500 millileter serving, and a hefty dose of caffeine.** Iight of obesity trends these two ingredients, especially the added sugars, made the group call for a ban on sales of energy drinks to children under age 16.**

When kids and teens see ads for an energy drink, they assume that it will boost their energy and sports performance, and maybe even give them a bit more prowess in social situations.   The truth is, these drinks have as much, if not more sugar, than many of the sodas we indict as evil drinks for our waistlines.   With childhood and teen obesity rates soaring in the U.S. and the U.K., we need to intercept marketing deception and ad campaigns that even remotely suggest 'fake' benefits. Kids are gullible and naïve enough to believe the claims.     Action on Sugar believes that energy drinks have little if any benefits but can get kids hooked on the sugar/caffeine mix.

In the survey, one energy drink by Rockstar, was found to have the equivalent of 20 teaspoons of sugar in a 500 millileter can.   The campaign group points to other energy drinks that contain far less sugar as a guideline to show that "it can be done."   The problem is that drinks like those made by Rockstar, have incredibly robust marketing campaigns, making them the go-to standard sports drink.   A 2014 Harvard School of Public Health study supports the claim by highlighting the down side of sugary drinks, including energy drinks.

Over the last decade these drinks have become increasingly popular, flooding the market and attracting the teen community.   Currently they are accessible to kids; and parents may even be buying them, mistakenly thinking that an energy drink is good nutrition for their athlete or teen.

The British Soft Drinks Association, similar to the America Beverage Association, believes that there are a range of choices in the energy drink sector, with a large variety of types, flavors, sizes. These include no-sugar or low-sugar options.   The association also believes that the labels are clear with regards to this nutrition information, so that consumers can make informed selections.   And some of the companies specifically targeted by Action on Sugar believe they have made an effort to reduce levels of sugar in some of their drinks.     Action on Sugar's research identified at least 50 percent of 197 energy drinks as having the same or more sugar than a regular can of Coke.

To be clear, these drink ads are meant to get kids' attention.  But the caffeine amounts in these drinks are worrisome, considering that teens may also be drinking caffeinated coffee and sodas.   The term energy drink subliminally suggests vitality or health. This is kind of funny, considering that these large doses of sugar actually put kids at risk of obesity.   Action on Sugar specifically focused on marketing terms like energizing, stimulating, revitalizing, and caffeine as being of concern and likely to lure kids and teens into buying these drinks.   Considering that the World Health Organization (WHO) and British government advisors have proposed cuts in recommended daily amounts of sugar, paralleling similar efforts in the US, it may indeed be time for a ban or some heavy-handed age limits on energy drinks.

What do you think??

Consider also reading:

Michelle Obama's Let's Move Campaign  

Six Tips to Reading a Nutrition Label

Source: Food Navigator

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