An English charity called this week for the country to ban the sale of energy drinks to children after its research found they contain up to 20 teaspoons of sugar per can. Action on Sugar wants vendors to stop providing kids under 16 with products like Rockstar because they may not know how the drinks actually affect their bodies.
"Children are being deceived into drinking large cans of this stuff, thinking they are going to improve their performance at school, during sports, or even on a night out," Graham MacGregor, a cardiovascular medicine professor at Queen Mary University of London, told BBC News. "In reality all they are doing is increasing their risk of developing obesity or Type 2 diabetes, which will have lifelong implications on their health."
Action Sugar examined about 200 supermarket drink options that included words like "energizing" and "caffeine" in advertisements. Half of them had the same amount of sugar -- or more -- than Coca-Cola does, according to the Guardian. The worst product, according to the research, was Sainsbury's Orange Energy Drink, with 15.9 grams of sugar per 100 milliliters. Other offenders included Rockstar Juiced Energy with mango, orange and passion fruit, Red Devil Energy Drink and Lucozade Energy Pink Lemonade/Caribbean Crush.
The average amount of sugar in a 500 milliliter can -- that's about 16 ounces -- was 78 grams. The American Heart Association recommends teens don't exceed 33 grams of sugar a day.
World Health Organization officials have previously said kids' consumption of energy drinks can be linked to caffeine overdoses, obesity, risky behavior and addiction.
Action Sugar called this "disgraceful" because the drinks are increasingly available to kids, but the British Soft Drinks Association told the Guardian it doesn't target youth. "These products are called energy drinks for a reason -- they deliver a caffeine or glucose-based energy boost," director Gavin Partington said. "BSDA members do not promote energy drinks to children under 16 and all products are clearly labeled in compliance with EU regulations."
Lithuania, the United Arab Emirates and Sweden are among nations that prohibit energy drink sales to minors.