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A systematic review of the effects associated with children and young people's use of energy drinks

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Shelina Visram, Dr Debbie Riby


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BackgroundGrowing numbers of children and young people report regular consumption of energy drinks (such as Red Bull), which typically contain high levels of sugar and caffeine in combination with other stimulants. There is emerging evidence of harmful physiological and psychological effects in adults, but little is known about the risks to children. This study set out to examine patterns of energy drink consumption by under 18 s and any evidence of adverse effects in terms of health and wellbeing.MethodsA systematic review was conducted. Data sources included nine bibliographic databases, reference lists of relevant studies, and searches of the internet. Two independent reviewers assessed the methodological quality of the studies and abstracted data, which were then descriptively summarized in a narrative synthesis.ResultsA total of 262 studies were located, with 38 meeting the inclusion criteria - 31 quantitative, five qualitative, and two literature reviews. The majority involved subjects aged 11–18 years. Studies were largely conducted in North America or Europe, yet all of the qualitative studies were from Australia or New Zealand. None were from the UK. Two-thirds were cross-sectional surveys exploring i) consumption patterns, attitudes and reasons for energy drink use, or ii) associations with health-related outcomes, including susceptibility to smoking, sleep problems, and physical health complaints such as headaches or stomach aches. A number of key themes emerged from the qualitative literature: the importance of branding and advertising; taste as a motivating factor; peer influence; and perceived (negative and positive) physiological effects.ConclusionsEnergy drinks have no known therapeutic benefit and evidence suggests that they may put some children at risk of adverse health effects. However, taste and youth-aimed marketing combine to ensure their popularity with young consumers. More research is needed to explore the short- and long-term effects of these drinks.Key messagesEvidence suggests that consumption of commercial energy drinks may put some children at risk of adverse health effectsMore research is needed to explore the short- and long-term effects of energy drinks on young people

Publication metadata

Author(s): Visram S, Cheetham M, Riby D, Lake AA, Crossley SJ

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 8th European Public Health Conference

Year of Conference: 2015

Pages: 239-240

Print publication date: 05/10/2015

Online publication date: 05/10/2015

Acceptance date: 01/07/2015

ISSN: 1101-1262

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/eurpub/ckv173.070

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

Series Title: European Journal of Public Health

ISBN: 1464360X