Energy drinks and children
Did you know that energy drinks must carry an advisory statement on their label saying that they’re “not recommended for children”? Let’s have a look at why.
Energy drinks contain added caffeine and this is regulated by the Food Code. A 250ml can of energy drink contains around 80mg of caffeine, which is the same as a cup of instant coffee.
Most energy drinks come in larger 500ml cans, which means these contain the same amount as two cups of coffee! Caffeine is not a nutrient, so there is no need to give it to children. In fact, caffeine is associated with sleeplessness, weight gain, increased impulsivity, aggressive behaviour, nervousness and attention problems in children1,2.
Getting enough sleep is an important part of being healthy. Even though kids can look like they have plenty of energy each day, sleep is the time their body repairs and grows.
Part of the reason energy drinks give a quick burst of energy is the high levels of sugar in them. Even a small 250ml can has around 5-6 teaspoons of sugar.
When you have an energy drink, the combination of caffeine and sugar work together to release dopamine in your brain which makes you want to keep drinking more1.
Find out more about the different types of sugar here.
Other health effects
Drinking energy drinks on a regular basis might mean your body’s not using enough energy to burn extra calories received from the drink3. Energy drinks don’t contain any useful nutrients for the body, and if they’re used to replace healthy food choices (like eating breakfast), it means we miss out on the nutrients and energy we should be getting from our food.
Because of their high sugar content and acidity, energy drinks have the potential to cause tooth decay, just like soft drinks and fruit juices.
Even if your school doesn’t sell energy drinks, children can purchase them on the way to school. Teachers are having to adjust their lesson plan depending on whether kids in the class are on an energy ‘high’ or an energy ‘low’. Dr Simon Thornley, Auckland Regional Public Health Service, says “The sugar and caffeine in these drinks leads to children getting hooked on them, with rotten teeth and poor engagement in the classroom as predictable consequences. An age restriction makes sense.”
Why did countdown make the change?
We welcome the news that Countdown supermarkets have restricted the sale of energy drinks to children under 16 years.
“We made our decision after engaging with health and education leaders, but also in talking with our team, many of whom are parents themselves. Across the board we found communities of people who are seeking help to address New Zealand’s high child obesity rates. We know there is more to do but we’re confident this is a good move for the health of Kiwi kids,” says Kiri Hannifin, Countdown’s General Manager Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability.
“Energy drinks are not recommended for children and they already have to carry a warning on pack. We’re simply choosing to proactively put this recommendation into effect in our stores” says Kiri Hannifin.
What drinks are best for children?
Plain water and milk are the only drinks children need to stay hydrated. Sugary drinks like energy drinks, soft drinks, iced teas, sports drinks and flavoured milks should be kept as ‘occasional’ drinks.
- Temple JL. Caffeine use in children: What we know, what we have left to learn, and why we should worry. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2009; 33:793-806.
- Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand Government, 2012, Caffine infosheet, 9 Oct 2019, <https://www.mpi.govt.nz/dmsdocument/3569-caffeine-information-fact-sheet>
- Rush E. Caffeine. Nutrition News December 2009; 2-3.
Thank you for your feedback.
The Fuelled4life team.