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Energy Drinks – Why All the Fuss?

You might have seen that the Government in England is considering banning children and/or adolescents from buying ‘energy’ drinks. What’s all the fuss about? We summarise what energy drinks contain and why the Government is considering such action.

‘Energy’ Drinks – All the Fuss for a ‘Rush’?

Energy drinks are popular because of the belief that they give you energy. It’s all in the name. People may drink them because they expect a boost. Yet what do they contain? Look at the nutritional information on the back of popular drinks like Red Bull and Monster. They contain caffeine. This is a known stimulant - it might make you feel awake and alert. This could depend on genes, how much caffeine you have and much more. The issue is they could contain a lot. Red Bull could contain about 80 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, like a mug of instant coffee. A can of Monster could have up to 240 mg caffeine – three times that of Red Bull. In 2015 the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) advised a maximum of 400 mg/day, and 200 mg in one dose didn’t raise much concern in adults of the general population. Drinking just two cans of Monster could mean you’ve had 480 mg; already well over the adult guidelines for caffeine. Note this is for adults! High caffeine intakes may have negative behavioural effects in young people (Brooks et al., 2015). Caffeine might improve mood and performance mentally and physically. Too much caffeine could increase anxiety, nervousness, disturb sleep and make you jittery and hyper-active.

Calories and Sugars

As well as the caffeine, taurine and vitamins added, energy drinks often have even more calories than regular soft drinks. A statement from the Department of Health and Social Care reads:

“More than two-thirds of 10- to 17-year-olds and a quarter of 6- to 9-year-olds consume energy drinks. A 250ml can of energy drink can contains around 80mg of caffeine – the equivalent of nearly 3 cans of cola. On average, non-diet energy drinks also contain 60% more calories and 65% more sugar than other, regular soft drinks.”

At a time when we know the dangers of childhood obesity and high sugar intakes (particularly added sugars), the importance of this is something worth shouting about. Yes, young athletes should make sure they are eating enough to develop. Yet these energy drinks could harm your health by sneaking in extra calories and added sugars, leading to you having too many calories and sugars. Remember you get plenty of calories and a variety of vitamins and minerals from a balanced diet. Food first!

Happy eating!

Article by Liam Oliver.


EFSA NDA Panel (EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies), 2015. Scientific Opinion on the safety of caffeine. EFSA Journal 2015;13(5):4102, 120 pp. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2015.4102

Brooks, F., Klemera, E., & Magnussen, J. (2015). Young People and Energy Drink Consumption: Findings from the WHO Health Behaviour in School Aged Children Survey (HBSC). Unpublished manuscript.

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