Children’s caffeine intake ‘should be controlled’

Tighter controls are needed to prevent children consuming high-caffeine energy drinks, a BBC investigation has heard.

Professor Mike Lean, an expert in nutrition, said children should be banned from buying highly-caffeinated drinks in the same way as alcohol.

Manufacturers representatives have said youths should not be drinking them.

But research for the European Food Safety Agency suggested more than two-thirds of the UK’s 10 to 18-year-olds have drunk high-caffeine energy drinks.

Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system.

In both children and adults, too much caffeine can cause difficulty concentrating and sleeping and increased heart rate.

There are concerns about the cumulative affects of caffeine, which is a psychoactive drug similar to other stimulants such as nicotine, on brains which are still immature.

Prof Lean, from the University of Glasgow, said: “If we’re serious about recognising the potential hazard of high-caffeine drinks for children, then we should certainly be putting obstacles in the way of children getting them.

“For example, children going into a shop to buy alcohol is forbidden because it’s bad for them and they’re not permitted to drink it. Perhaps the same sort of approach should be used for highly-caffeinated drinks.”

Industry guidelines say under-16s should not consume drinks with a caffeine level of 150mg per litre or more.

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