'No evidence' to back calls for ban on energy drinks - Expert

It comes after two men aged in their 20s suffered cardiac arrest following excessive consumption of energy drinks
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.10 8 Jul 2024

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'No evidence' to back calls fo...

'No evidence' to back calls for ban on energy drinks - Expert

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.10 8 Jul 2024

Share this article

There is no evidence to back calls for a ban on energy drinks, an expert has insisted.

It comes after two men in their 20s suffered cardiac arrest following excessive consumption of the drinks.

One patient drank 10 cans of an energy drink over a number of hours which was followed by a litre of another caffeine-containing drink.


Another patient drank seven cans in a similar time frame.

Britain is considering a ban on the sale of the products to children under 16 - but in Ireland, it is up to shopkeepers whether they wish to sell them to children or not.

Nutritionist and dietician Dr Mary McCreery told Lunchtime Live the energy drinks sector is "a minefield all of its own".

"First of all there's no actual definition of what an energy drink is," she said.

"We have so many drinks on the market that might contain caffeine or taurine or vitamins or ginseng.

"When people talk about energy drinks they can have either a perceived or an actual belief in the benefits of it - either as a stimulant or a performance enhancer.

"But there's a lot of sports or soft drinks on the market who have no caffeine in them at all and they're still termed energy drinks".

'The same as two cups of coffee'

Dr McCreery said there is "no evidence" from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to restrict or ban these drinks.

"For something to be labelled 'high caffeine' it has to have more than 150 milligrams per litre of the drink to be labelled 'high caffeine'" she said.

"That is the same as two cups of filtered coffee.

"So if you're looking purely at the caffeine content, which is where a lot of the worry comes in, your can of cola would have less caffeine than a cup of tea".

Dr McCreery said the perception of 'sugar-free drinks' is not so simple.

"The consumption of sugar-containing beverages has decreased dramatically over the last number of years.

"You can get an awful lot of sugar-free but caffeine drinks as well.

"You could have a can of soft drink that is sugar-free, caffeine-free and it still would be labelled into this category".

'Consumed with alcohol'

Dr McCreery said "the main concern" is the consumption of these drinks with alcohol.

"That's usually linked in with binge drinking," she said.

"So if you're coming back to music events, concerts and sporting events where the alcohol is consumed with these high caffeine drinks it's usually associated with binge drinking.

"That's where the minefield is - there's so many different areas of this category of what we'd call luxury food items".

'It is having an impact'

Health scientist and sleep coach Tom Coleman told the show high caffeine levels in younger people is a concern.

"From what I can see and what I can gather there is emerging evidence which talks about the negative health outcomes of energy drinks," he said.

"Look at the caffeine content of one of these energy drinks, then look at other beverages that these teenagers might be drinking during the day - cola, tea and coffee.

"When we add all that up it's a huge amount of caffeine and usually sugar."

Mr Coleman said research from the Harvard School of Public Health points to "emerging evidence that has negative health consequences like poor mental health, adverse cardiovascular effects [and] renal and dental issues.

"So it is having an impact," he added.

Mr Coleman suggested energy drinks could be moved to a different area of the supermarket.

You can listen back here:

Main image: An aisle full of energy drinks. Image: René van den Berg / Alamy

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