WHO researchers recommend limit on caffeine in drinks

WHO researchers recommend limit on caffeine in drinks
Hot coffee can only be consumed so fast, unlike caffeinated soft drinks.

An upper limit should be set for the amount of caffeine in energy drinks, a researcher has suggested.

Joao Breda, from the WHO Regional Office for Europe, and colleagues reviewed the literature on the health risks, consequences and policies linked to energy drink consumption believes that fears over the impact of these drinks are “broadly valid”.

The researchers looked at studies which included the suggestion that caffeine intoxication can lead to heart palpitations, hypertension, nausea and vomiting, convulsions, psychosis, and in rare cases, death. In the USA, Sweden, and Australia, several cases have been reported where people have died of heart failure or were taken to hospital with seizures, from excess consumption of energy drinks.

The research team point out that part of the risks of energy drinks are due to their high levels of caffeine. Energy drinks can be drunk quickly, unlike hot coffee, and as a result they are more likely to cause caffeine intoxication.

Upper limits of caffeine, to be made in line with scientific evidence, should be imposed on a single serving of any drink and there should be restrictions of labelling and sales of energy drinks to children and adolescents, the researchers suggest.

The researchers, whose review is included in the Frontiers in Public Health journal, conclude: “As energy drink sales are rarely regulated by age, unlike alcohol and tobacco, and there is a proven potential negative effect on children, there is the potential for a significant public health problem in the future.”

They also suggested that patients with a history of diet problems and substance abuse should be screened for the heavy consumption of energy drinks and there should be a public education campaign about the risks of mixing alcohol with energy drinks consumption. There also needs to be further research on the potential adverse effects of energy drinks, particularly on young people, they said.

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