Warning as schoolchildren replace breakfast with energy drinks

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PARENTS are being warned over the health risks of energy drinks amid reports schoolchildren are guzzling them instead of breakfast.

Dr Aine O’Connor of the British Nutrition Foundation said the drinks were ‘not suitable for young people.’

The warning comes after letter was sent to parents of pupils at an East Lothian school, after children admitted having the drink every day.

Experts say pupils left buzzing from the caffeinated cans will be unable to focus on schoolwork.

Dr O’Connor said: “Breakfast is a really important meal for everyone and especially for young people to provide energy and nutrients for health and growth and to keep them going through the morning.

“It is worrying if young people are skipping breakfast and replacing this with a soft drink, especially an energy drink that can contain high levels of caffeine.

“Energy drinks are genrally not suitable for young people, and they often contain high amounts of caffeine or sugar.

“The high caffeine content could pose health risks and the sugar content contributes to overall kilojule/calorie intake and may increase the risk of tooth decay if teeth aren’t brushed regularly.

“Energy drinks containing more than 150mg of caffeine per litre must contain the wording ‘high caffeine content’ on the label.”

Sarah Ingham, depute head teacher of Knox Academy in Haddington, East Lothian warned that pupils were getting a sugar-induced ‘artificial boost’ from the drinks, and become cranky after the boost ends.

The statement read: “It has come to our attention that Many Knox Academy pupils are consuming what could be termed ‘energy’ drinks.

“They usually have a high sugar and caffeine content . Disturbingly, it seems that some youngsters are replacing their breakfast with these drinks, meaning that they are getting an artificial boost from the caffeine and sugar that is often followed by a slump in characterised by a bad temper and an inability to focus on work.

“Even more disturbing are reports from pupils that they are drinking multiple cans of these drinks every day.”

The school has not been selling energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster since it signed up to a healthy eating initiative, but pupils are buying the drinks from local shops.

Scottish schools do not stock fizzy drinks in canteens or vending machines after a ban was introduced.

David McGinty, a national officer for health and safety with the Education Insitute of Scotland (EIS), said he was aware of reports of children ‘buzzing’ after guzzling energy drinks.

He said: “They can become quite hyper because they are full of energy, sugar and caffeine.

“When that wears off they can go down and we would have concerns about that.

“High energy caffeinated drinks have their place but not necessarily at the breakfast table.”

A spokeswoman for East Lothian council said: “It’s well documented that some of these energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants, which may result in some youngsters being less than receptive in the classroom.”

Richard Lambing of the British Soft Drinks Association, which represents many energy drink makers, said the products were not designed for children.

He said: “our position is that these drinks are designed for adults.

“We do not market them to under-16s and we label them accordingly.”

In December last year SNP members of South Ayrshire council wrote to the Scottish Government to raise the issue of energy drinks in schools.

Nan McFarlane, leader of the SNP group on South Ayrshire Council, said: “Teachers are telling my councillors the pupils are uncontrollable – they get hyperactive and are bouncing off the walls after drinking one of these cans.

“This is followed by them going flat, with no concentration. The problem is mainly in our secondary schools. It’s very worrying and I wonder if parents are aware of these effects. Some of these drinks contain massive amounts of sugar and are loaded with caffeine.”

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