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Excessive consumption of energy drinks increases health risk for children and adolescents

17/2019, 27.05.2019

BfR publishes opinion on the effects on the cardiovascular system of drinks containing caffeine

Caffeine-containing energy drinks are consumed in high quantities, especially in dance clubs, at music and sports events and when playing long computer games. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), children and adolescents should ingest no more than three milligrams (mg) of caffeine per kilogram (kg) of body weight per day. For a healthy young person with a body weight of around 50 kg, this amounts to 150 mg of caffeine. This quantity is already exceeded after consuming two commercially available cans of energy drink, each containing 80 mg of caffeine per 250 millilitres (ml). On certain occasions, however, some adolescents drink four and more cans within a few hours. This can result in increased health risks, above all for the cardiovascular system. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has now issued the risks of energy drinks for adolescents in a scientific opinion.

"The ten percent of children and adolescents who consume a litre and more of energy drinks within a few hours should be seen as a high risk group," says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "Many of them are not aware that the additional consumption of alcohol or strenuous physical exercise can further intensify the undesired effects of caffeine".

In addition to caffeine, energy drinks usually contain other substances such as taurine, glucuronolactone or inositol, and are advertised to increase concentration and physical performance. Ingested in high quantities, however, caffeine can have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system.

In its assessment, the BfR concludes that moderate energy drink quantities do not lead to any undesired effects in healthy young adults. With several individuals, however, who had drunk a litre in the assessed studies, there were moderate to severe effects, such as palpitations, shortness of breath, muscle tremors, nausea, anxiety, nervousness and changes in the electrocardiogram (ECG).

Surveys of drinking behaviour show that ten percent of children and adolescents in Germany consume excessive amounts of energy drinks of one litre and more on certain occasions.

For this reason, the BfR recommends to expand information and education in order to counteract the excessive consumption of energy drinks by children and adolescents. The risk group might be easily reached through campaigns in schools.

Since 2014, the following warning must be applied to energy drink products containing more than 150 mg of caffeine per litre: “High caffeine content. Not recommended for children or pregnant or breast-feeding women”.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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Opinion

 (1)
Date Title Size
27.05.2019
BfR Opinion No 018/2019
Children and adolescents: Excessive consumption of energy drinks Increases health risk for cardiovascular system 568.7 KB
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