Researchers have raised the alarm after discovering links between energy drinks and suicidal thoughts in children.
The new research reveals that energy drinks could pose a greater risk to children’s health than previously thought.
The study was conducted by Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health at Teesside University, and Newcastle University in the UK.
It was published in the peer-reviewed Public Health journal last month.
Those who consumed energy drinks were shown to have a higher risk of mental health problems such as depression, suicidal thoughts, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety, according to a study.
Researchers said they looked at data from 57 studies of more than 1.2 million children and younger people from more than 21 countries to come up with their conclusions.
It found that boys consumed more energy drinks than girls.
Meanwhile, “many studies” reported an association between energy drink consumption and alcohol use, binge drinking, and smoking, as well as other substance use.
“Additional health effects noted in the updated review included increased risk of suicide, psychological distress, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms, depressive and panic behaviors, allergic diseases, insulin resistance, dental caries, and erosive tooth wear,” an abstract of the paper said.
Regarding the impacts on mental health, it found that “frequent” drinking of energy drinks “was associated with suicide attempts and severe stress.”
There “were also higher rates of suicide ideation and attempts with [energy drink] intake greater than once per day,” the researchers note.
“Longitudinal analysis reported that [energy drink] consumption was related to increased ADHD inattention, conduct disorder, depressive, and panic symptoms,” it continued to say.
A co-author, Shelina Visram, with Newcastle University, said in a news release that she is “deeply concerned about the findings that energy drinks can lead to psychological distress and issues with mental health.”
“These are important public health concerns that need to be addressed,” she added.
“There has been policy inaction on this area despite [UK] government concern and public consultations.
“It is time that we take action on the fastest-growing sector of the soft drink market.”
The UK-based researchers are now calling on governments to either ban or restrict energy drinks for younger people and children.
“This evidence suggests that energy drinks have no place in the diets of children and young people,” author Amelia Lake, professor of public health nutrition at Teesside University, told Fox News on Thursday.
“Policymakers should follow the example of countries that have placed age restrictions on their sales to children.”
It’s because, their study shows, the researchers have “found an even greater list of mental and physical health outcomes associated with children and young people consuming energy drinks,” she said.
“We repeated [the review] only to find an ever-growing evident space that suggests the consumption of these drinks is associated with negative health outcomes,” Ms. Lake continued.
Several countries have already tried to regulate energy drinks, including bans on sales to minors in Latvia and Lithuania. Other countries such as Finland and Poland are also reportedly looking to ban the products from being sold to people under the age of 18.
The study, meanwhile, drew a response from UK officials.
A spokesperson for the UK Department of Health and Social Care told the BBC that “we consulted on a proposal to end the sale of energy drinks to children under 16 in England, and will set out our full response in due course.”
“In the meantime, many larger retailers and supermarkets have voluntarily introduced a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children under 16.”
But several years ago, Christopher Snowdon, the head of Lifestyle Economics at the UK-based Institute of Economic Affairs, found that such bans unfairly target teenagers and said there is a lack of evidence to link the drinks to negative behaviors.
In an article published in 2020, he wrote:
“The current scientific evidence alone is not sufficient to justify a measure as prohibitive as a statutory ban on the sale of energy drinks to children.”