Urgent warning as 1 in 3 kids’ health at risk due to ‘harmful’ drink

UP to one in three British kids regularly consume drinks described as "harmful", a study has revealed.

It shows as many as 32 per cent of children guzzled energy drinks at least once a week.

The BMJ Open study claims frequent consumption – five or more cans weekly – is associated with poor mental and physical health.

York University researchers warn young energy drink fans are more likely to suffer headaches, sleep problems, irritability and school exclusion.

They also raise their odds of boozing and smoking by sipping on the caffeinated beverages.

The study analysed data on thousands of schoolkids, as well as evidence from around the world.

It suggests boys consume more than girls, and that poorer youngsters in the North of England are the nation’s biggest fans.

The average can of energy drink has the same amount of caffeine as an espresso shot – as well as other potentially active ingredients, such as guarana and taurine.

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A moderate daily caffeine intake of up to 400mg is recommended for adults, but little research exists on tolerable levels for adolescents and children.

Typical cans also contain more than a child's daily added sugar limit recommended by the NHS (19-24g per day, depending on age).

Lead researcher Claire Khouja, from York University, said: “While more research is needed to track the effects of energy drinks on children who drink them, our research has uncovered consistent evidence of links between the regular consumption of these drinks and harmful effects on children’s overall wellbeing.

“These findings offer support for a government policy banning the sale of energy drinks to children.

“Our study also indicates that children who are better informed about the contents of energy drinks, drink less, suggesting that an education campaign and/or more prominent warnings on packaging could reduce consumption.”

Ministers proposed to ban energy drink sales to under 16s in 2018, but have yet to implement it.

Many UK retailers voluntarily refuse to allow youngsters to buy the beverages.

Gavin Partington, Director General at British Soft Drinks Association, said: “Our members do not market or promote energy drinks to under 16s, nor do they sample products with this age group.

“In addition, energy drinks carry an advisory note stating ‘Not recommended for children'.”

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