KITCHENER – LIVING – Youth are targeted by advertising. Youth is likely one of the target groups most susceptible to peer pressure and more concerned with fitting in than in making healthy decisions in many cases. That can be seen in the growing impact of energy drinks and today’s teens and young adults. “Most risk assessments to date have used coffee as a reference for estimating the health effects of energy drinks; however, it is clear these products pose a greater health risk,” said David Hammond a Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Waterloo. “The health effects from energy could be due to the different ingredients than coffee, or the ways in which they consumed, including with alcohol or during physical activity; regardless, the findings suggest a need to increase surveillance of health effects from these products.”
Over half of Canadian youth and young adults who have consumed energy drinks have experienced negative health effects as a result, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.
Hammond says that there are several issues that need to be addressed by families, governments, and by the energy drink companies.
Hammond asserts that some of the arguments being used by the energy drink companies are the same ones that tobacco companies used back in the day.
“The question should be asked should they be next to the candy and gum as a point-of-sale item,” stated Hammond speaking to NNL by telephone. Currently, Canadian legislation is meant to prohibit energy drinks from being marketed to children and energy drinks are not recommend to be used by people participating in sporting activities.
The energy drink companies Hammond says state that they are not marketing the drinks to children. However often the retail sales, and point-of-sale displays bring the beverages right into the vision of younger children.
Another issue is that for older youth, combining alcohol and energy drinks are causing serious problems.
In a nationwide survey of Canadian youth, over half of those who had ever consumed an energy drink had reported experiencing an adverse health event, including rapid heartbeat, nausea, and in rare cases, seizures.
In conducting the study, the researchers surveyed 2,055 young Canadians aged 12 to 24. Of those that had reported consuming energy drinks at some point in their lives, 55.4 percent reported experiencing an adverse health event.
Of those reporting adverse health events, 24.7 percent reported experiencing a fast heartbeat, 24.1 percent reported difficulty sleeping and 18.3 percent reported experiencing headaches. A total of 5.1 percent reported nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, 5 percent sought medical attention, 3.6 percent reported experiencing chest pains, and 0.2 percent reported having a seizure.
“The number of health effects observed in our study suggests that more should be done to restrict consumption among children and youth,” said Hammond. “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.”