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Laura Matthews, Jamie’s Head of Nutrition, explains how high-sugar, high-caffeine energy drinks could be damaging our health, and why they’re particularly bad for kids.

Many kids regularly buy energy drinks that are high in refined sugar and caffeine. And lots of children drink these fizzy energy drinks in volumes that far exceed the recommended caffeine intake for their age and size. In fact, 69 per cent of all 10 to 18 year olds in the UK report drinking energy drinks, with a shocking 13 per cent saying they drink a whole litre (or more) in one sitting. That’s the equivalent of a grown man drinking 12 espresso coffees in one go!

Why are they so bad for children?

A typical energy drink contains 27.5g of total sugars in one 250ml can – equivalent to almost seven cubes of sugar. This is more than a child aged seven to 10 should consume in a whole day!

Although energy drinks do usually state ‘not recommended for children’ on their packaging, this has no legal power and is easily ignored. In fact, teenagers are often persuaded to consume these drinks via marketing messages that claim the product improves energy, sport or mental performance.

Sadly, the opposite is true, and energy drinks are linked to poorer attainment in school. We’ve heard from teachers, parents and children alike about how rife this problem is, with teachers sharing horror stories of trying to lead a classroom that’s “under the influence” of energy drinks, and just how obstructive to learning this can be.

Regularly drinking caffeinated, sugary drinks can also cause diet-related disease and tooth decay. Further problems such as dental caries (holes in the teeth) or gum disease are also linked to excess sugar consumption.

What can we do?

Some schools are fighting their own battle against these drinks, by banning them on the premises. But schools can only do so much on their own. We need the government to legally age-restrict the sale of energy drinks, in the same way that scratch cards are only sold to over-16s.

So, let’s start a revolution against fizzy energy drinks, and protect our kids from the damaging sugar and caffeine levels in these products. We need everyone to tell the government to step in. Tweet the Health Secretary, @Jeremy_Hunt, and tell him to ban the sale of energy drinks to children under 16, using the hashtag #NotForChildren.

Watch this week’s Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast to see Jamie and Jimmy’s food fight on energy drinks. Catch the show every Friday at 8pm on Channel 4.

About the author

Laura Matthews

Laura is head of nutrition at Jamie Oliver. Her passion for food comes from having cooking lessons at a local college from the age of 10, and the nutrition side from a fascination for how the right foods can fuel the body.

Laura Matthews