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Academic talks energy drinks at Commons Select Committee

13 June 2018 @TeesUniNews

 

A Teesside University academic has addressed a House of Commons Select Committee in London on the impact of energy drinks on young people.

Dr Amelia Lake, Reader in Public Health Nutrition
Dr Amelia Lake, Reader in Public Health Nutrition

Dr Amelia Lake, a Reader in Public Health Nutrition in the School of Science, Engineering & Design, has given evidence to the Science and Technology Committee on the effects of energy drinks on young people’s mental and physical health.

The Commons Select Committee ensures that government policy and decision-making is based on good scientific advice and evidence. The latest meeting called on experts from a number of disciplines, including education, paediatric healthcare and dietetics, and members of the soft drinks and retail industries.

The committee is looking at what current action is being taken on the sale of energy drinks to children and whether regulation has a role to play, such as the introduction of a legal age restriction for the drinks.

Dr Lake told the committee that children as young as ten were consuming energy drinks, sometimes as meal replacements, often because of the positive connotations associated with the word ‘energy’. She also explained that the drinks exceeded the amount of caffeine that was safe for children to consume and stressed that she would support a total ban on the sale of energy drinks to under 16s.

Gamification, where a product became a part of the game, was also a concern raised by Dr Lake. She told the Committee that there was a trend around popular things, such as video games, cars and sports, which were often sponsored or associated with energy drinks.

Dr Lake is Associate Director for Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health. Earlier this year, the Fuse researchers involved in the energy drinks studies called on the government to consider restricting the sale of the drinks to under-16s after research revealed that they were being sold to children ‘cheaper than water and pop’.

The research was compiled by colleagues from several North East universities including Dr Shelina Visram (Newcastle University), Dr Mandy Cheetham (Teesside University), Dr Stephen Crossley (Northumbria University) and Dr Lake. Their study highlighted the dangers of energy drinks, which typically contain high levels of caffeine and sugar, with evidence indicating that regular or heavy use by under-18s is likely to be detrimental to health.

Legislation to prevent the sales of energy drinks to under-16s would be helpful, however the marketing of these drinks to young people through computer games and their association with sports is a much wider issue.

Dr Amelia Lake, Reader in Public Health Nutrition

Energy drink consumption by young people is a significant health concern. Studies have shown that more than two-thirds of young people surveyed in the UK had consumed energy drinks within the past year and that young people in the UK drink more energy drinks than those in any other European countries.

Dr Lake said: 'Many large retailers have already taken steps not to sell energy drinks to children under 16, but many stores still continue to sell to young people, including convenience stores which offer a wide range of brands, flavours and package sizes.

'Legislation to prevent the sales of energy drinks to under-16s would be helpful, however the marketing of these drinks to young people through computer games and their association with sports is a much wider issue.'

This work supports the University's Grand Challenge Research Theme of Health and Wellbeing which is part of a wider aim to address some of the global challenges of our time through focus on externally facing research which makes a real, practical difference to the lives of people, along with the success of businesses and economies.

For a summary of the research, visit the Fuse website.


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Commons Select Committe on Energy Drinks
BBC Look North, North East & Cumbria, 13/06/2018
Dr Amelia Lake outlines Fuse research to a Commons Select Commitee on the impact of energy drinks on young people.