Most of us know the over-consumption of energy drinks can be hazardous to our health, but one study suggests young people have to be extra cautious of how much they consume.
According to a recent study published in the journal CMAJ Open, more than half of young people who have consumed energy drinks have experienced negative health effects.
These effects range from rapid heartbeat, nausea, and, in rare cases, even seizures.
Professor and study co-author David Hammond of the University of Waterloo, says although previous studies on energy drinks focus on self-reporting and ER visits, this study focused on regular consumers between the ages of 12 and 24.
“That’s a better way of getting people who have had problems and don’t report them,” he tells Global News. “It gives us a better glimpse how common [these problems] are, and the focus on 12- to 24-year-olds is the age group most likely to be consumers.”
Collecting the data
The study conducted a survey asking 2,055 young Canadians about their energy drink consumption and if they had any negative health outcomes. The report found 73.8 per cent of respondents have consumed energy drinks at some point in their life and 55.4 per cent reported experiencing an adverse health effect.
“We asked them what else they were doing [when they were consuming energy drinks], a quarter said drinking alcohol and the same number of people were also in physical activities.”
The survey revealed 24.7 per cent experienced rapid heartbeat, 24.1 per cent having difficulty sleeping and 18.3 per cent experiencing headaches. It also found 5.1 per cent reported nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, 3.6 per cent reported experiencing chest pains, and 0.2 per cent reported having a seizure.
Hammond says these numbers are troubling because energy drinks are often marketed towards young people and companies often like to advocate how safe caffeine is. Hammond adds energy drinks are not purely caffeine.
“People are using them differently than coffee and coffee isn’t marketed to kids,” he continues. Energy drinks have other stimulants in them.”
According to a statement released by the Canadian Beverage Association, the study also grouped non-alcoholic caffeinated energy drinks together with alcoholic beverages with caffeine and “energy shots.”
“These other products are not considered caffeinated energy drinks (CEDs) by Health Canada and are regulated as non-food products. As such, the broad conclusions drawn about the purported negative effects of ‘energy drinks’ are misleading,” the association said in an email statement to Global News.
The association notes Health Canada has deemed energy drinks safe for consumption, as long as adults and teens are using science and fact-based approaches. “Two servings of a typical energy drink per day would not be expected to pose a health risk for the general adult population.”
“The research is clear, CEDs are now available in more than 165 countries and have been in the Canadian marketplace since 2004. Energy drinks have been thoroughly tested and are considered safe by the world’s leading health authorities.”
But Hammond says it doesn’t matter if these products are available in 165 countries — so are things like cigarettes. His concern around the health effects is how energy drinks are marketed to people between the ages of 12 and 24. He adds extreme sports and activities, partying and staying awake are associated with drinking these beverages.
“The number of health effects observed in our study suggests that more should be done to restrict consumption among children and youth. At the moment, there are no restrictions on children purchasing energy drinks, and they are marketed at the point-of-sale in grocery stores, as well as advertising that targets children,” he told AFP News.
He adds you can buy energy shots right next to the candy counter at some stores.
“It’s that marketing maybe we should make people aware of … [energy drinks] are not the same as other products and shouldn’t be promoted to kids the way they are.”