An insurgence of unhealthy energy drinks has occurred in Ireland in the last 15 years, a report from safe food has revealed.
According to the report, the number of products of this kind on the market has risen from just ten in 2004 to 39 today.
Energy drinks are defined as “non-alcoholic drinks, containing caffeine as a main ingredient, which are marketed as a stimulant to improve energy levels and performance”.
The drinks have few or no benefits for the large majority of people and only benefit about 2 percent of athletes according to Prof. Donal O’Shea.
Dr. O’Shea objects to these products being advertised as performance enhancing products.
“It is a very sinister way into a market to promote what is supposed to be a performance-enhancing product,” he said.
“They [the drinks] are not.
“You have 15-year-olds drinking these and putting on calories while playing sport.”
According to the safe food report, “energy drinks contribute sugar and calories to the diet with little/no nutritional benefit, having sugar levels comparable with other soft drinks.”
The report states that there are six cubes of sugar in a serving of lucozade, with the most common serving size 250ml.
Another health concern stemming from the consumption of these energy drinks is the over-consumption of caffeine. The safe food report revealed that, “the caffeine content of the standard 250ml serving of energy drink is 80mg caffeine, equivalent to one and a half bottles (500ml) of standard cola or two (200ml) cups of tea.”
The caffeine content of energy drinks has potential health issues. According to the report, the European Food Safety Association (EFSA) advice for adults amounts to a maximum intake of two and a half 250ml servings on a single drinking occasion for an adult.
“All sources of caffeine like energy drinks, coffee and tea, need to be factored into the EFSA recommended daily safe limits for adults,” the report said.
According to USA magazine, “increased consumption of coffee raises blood pressure as well as stress, thus putting consumers at risk of potential heart problems in the future.”
The report warned that when alcohol is mixed with energy drinks the depressant effects of the alcohol are masked which causes people to drink more alcohol.
“Consuming energy drinks as a mixer with alcohol is a common real-life practice which is associated with binge drinking as distinct from moderate consumption.
“Binge drinking is prevalent in young male drinkers in Ireland today.”
The drinking of energy drink is considered a significant health risk today for the reasons outlined by the safe food report. Many experts believe that caffeine should be labelled as a drug and many more believe that these energy drinks should not be targeted at children or teenagers.
Still, the market for this type of product is ever expanding.