Consumption of energy drinks by children and young people: a rapid review examining evidence of physical effects and consumer attitudes


Objective To examine patterns of energy drink consumption by children and young people, attitudes towards these drinks, and any associations with health or other outcomes.

Design Rapid evidence assessment and narrative synthesis.

Data sources 9 electronic bibliographic databases, reference lists of relevant studies and searches of the internet.

Results A total of 410 studies were located, with 46 meeting the inclusion criteria. The majority employed a cross-sectional design, involved participants aged 11–18 years, and were conducted in North America or Europe. Consumption of energy drinks by children and young people was found to be patterned by gender, with boys consuming more than girls, and also by activity levels, with the highest consumption observed in the most and least sedentary individuals. Several studies identified a strong, positive association between the use of energy drinks and higher odds of health-damaging behaviours, as well as physical health symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, hyperactivity and insomnia. There was some evidence of a dose–response effect. 2 experimental studies involving small numbers of junior athletes demonstrated a positive impact on limited aspects of sports performance. 3 themes emerged from the qualitative studies: reasons for use; influences on use; and perceived efficacy and impact. Taste and energy-seeking were identified as key drivers, and branding and marketing were highlighted as major influences on young people's consumption choices. Awareness of possible negative effects was low.

Conclusions There is growing evidence that consumption of energy drinks is associated with a range of adverse outcomes and risk behaviours in terms of children's health and well-being. However, taste, brand loyalty and perceived positive effects combine to ensure their popularity with young consumers. More research is needed to explore the short-term and long-term impacts in all spheres, including health, behaviour and education.

Trial registration number CRD42014010192.

Strengths and limitations of this study

  • This is the first independent review of the scientific literature relating solely to the consumption of energy drinks by children and young people.

  • Key strengths include the comprehensiveness of the searches, the systematic study selection process and rigorous synthesis methods used.

  • The inclusion of qualitative research exploring children and young people's views, alongside quantitative studies on health and other effects, helps to enhance the relevance of the findings for the design and evaluation of future policy and practice interventions.

  • The strength of the conclusions is limited by the quality of the individual studies, which varied due to factors such as the sample sizes, cross-sectional designs and reliance on self-report data.

  • Few studies examined educational or social outcomes, highlighting a need for further research that examines the short-term and long-term impact of energy drinks in relation to a wider range of outcomes.

Autor / Fonte:Shelina Visram, Mandy Cheetham, Deborah M Riby, Stephen J Crossley, Amelia A Lake BMJ Open 2016 October 8, 6 (10): e010380