A new report by Safefood into energy drinks has found that some brands contain up to 16 teaspoons of sugar.
Males aged 15-24 are the worst offenders and are the highest consumers of energy drinks (64%).
Over half of those who consume energy drinks (54%) drink them at least once a week or more frequently.
Safefood also found that some energy drinks cost less than €0.50 cent a can.
Energy and sports drinks now comprise more than 20% of the soft drinks market in Ireland and according to Safefood, consumption can lead to serious health consequences because of their sugar and caffeine content.
A typical small 250ml can has sugar levels of 6 teaspoons per can which is equivalent to a full chocolate bar.
Because the caffeine content is high, drinking 2 small cans and one small espresso, drives an adult’s daily caffeine intake above recommended levels.
In addition, the use of energy drinks as a mixer with alcohol among young adults also has consequences in the context of Ireland’s current binge–drinking culture. That’s according to Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, Safefood.
“Safefood’s position continues to be that these drinks are not recommended as a mixer for alcoholic beverages but this is now common and part of the binge drinking culture prevalent particularly amongst our 15-24 year olds,” commented Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan.
Operation Transformation’s GP Dr Ciara Kelly continued by saying that mixing an energy drink, which is a stimulant, with alcohol which is a depressant, is like “driving a car with your feet on the accelerator and brake pedals at the same time”.
“It stimulates a person so they actually end up drinking for longer as they may not be aware how drunk they really are. GP surgeries and our A&E Departments have to deal with the effects of mixing energy drinks with alcohol. The cheap price, easy availability, aggressive marketing and consumption of these products bluntly show how far from responsible the industry truly is and why we need to ask ourselves some hard questions when it comes to their use.“
The average price of an energy drink is €1.09, however this cost can range as low as €0.49 cent with supermarket own-brands being cheaper than branded products.
While the majority of energy drink brands surveyed in the report comply with current labelling legislation, specific health claims are still made such as “contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue”. Brands also make references to their appeal among “top athletes, students” and “in highly demanding professions”
Dr Foley-Nolan continued “safefood reiterate that energy drinks are also not suitable for children under 16 or for rehydration purposes following sport.”