RCPCH President issues warning to MPs about the harmful effects of energy drinks

Today Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, gave evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on the impact of energy drinks on children and young people. Professor Viner warned MPs that the caffeine and sugar content in energy drinks is harmful, and called for restrictions on their sale to children and young people.
Professor Russell Viner giving evidence to the Science and Technology Committee
Professor Viner (second from left) and other experts giving evidence to the Committee

Speaking following the session, Professor Viner said:

"There is no evidence that caffeine is necessary or useful for children and young people. However, there is significant evidence of harm related to its stimulant effect - impacting on the mental health of children and young people, and causing fatigue due to sleep problems. Teenagers need much more sleep than adults, yet they are more likely to consume energy drinks.

"One area of evidence that is less clear is the impact of energy drinks on development. Caffeine and similar stimulants may have harmful effects on the brain as it develops in late childhood and early adolescence. This is hugely concerning, and we need to see more research in this area.

"Several supermarkets in the UK have already banned the sale of energy drinks to children and young people under the age of 16 years. While these voluntary measures taken by specific outlets should be applauded, a mandatory code would be welcomed as it is inevitable that children and young people will still be able to purchase these harmful drinks elsewhere.

"The benefits of a ban would be children with better wellbeing, who sleep better, and who are more productive at school. We also believe that, due to the high sugar content of energy drinks, a ban would contribute to tackling the childhood obesity crisis facing the UK. It is encouraging that the Committee is investigating this issue and we look forward to working with Parliamentarians and Government in this area going forward."