A LEADING Australian cardiologist is calling for concentrated energy “shot” drinks to be taken off the market, or to have strict limits placed on their caffeine content.
Professor Garry Jennings, Director of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, is among a number of experts concerned about the health impacts of the energy “shots”, which contain up to 200mg of caffeine in a single 50ml serve – more than twice as much as a single-shot espresso coffee.
He told InSight that consumption, especially among young people, usually occurred with alcohol.
“That is a pretty bad combination because firstly, you don’t know how drunk you are and secondly, both sides of the equation are diuretic.”
Dr Jennings said the risk of serious dehydration was increased even further if “party” drugs were added.
Worrying levels consumed by teenagers
His comments follow an editorial published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal which said caffeine-loaded energy drinks had crossed the line from being beverages to drugs delivered as tasty syrups.
The editorial refers to a study of US adolescents that found 73% consumed 100 mg or more of caffeine per day, mostly in the evening.
The authors said, “Poor sleep quality and quantity in adolescents has been associated with mood disorders, exacerbation of asthma, obesity, lower sense of well-being and poor school performance”.
Strict limits and industry compliance are required
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) regulations permit a maximum caffeine content of 320 mg per litre in caffeinated beverages, which usually come in 250ml to 500ml serves.
They must carry a label warning they are not suitable for young children, pregnant or lactating women and people sensitive to caffeine.
But energy shots, marketed as dietary supplements, do not meet these standards.
FSANZ spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann said some energy shots, particularly those imported from New Zealand, contained caffeine and other substances at concentrations above the prescribed limits.
As a result, the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council is preparing a bi-national compliance strategy.
High potency energy drinks could affect children’s concentration and result in rebound fatigue, while there is growing concern that consuming energy drinks when intoxicated is linked to pub violence and sexual assaults, warned AMA Vice President Dr Steven Hambleton.
Professor Steve Allsop, Director of the National Drug Research Institute in Perth, is calling for a review of the way energy drinks are advertised and sold – “The sale, labelling and promotion should take into account caffeine is a drug with potential adverse effects.”
CMAJ 2010. DOI:10.1503/cmaj.100953.
Posted 26 July, 2010