London: There is a need to ban the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to children and young people to tackle obesity and mental health problems, says an expert.
Caffeine is probably the most commonly used psychoactive drug across the world as it increases activity and heightens attention and awareness.
But caffeine also increases anxiety, reduces sleep and is linked with behavioural problems in children, said Russell Viner, Professor from the UK's Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).
Recent studies have also showed that it may have concerning effects on the developing brain.
This is alarming because psychological distress can lead to risky behaviours like drug use and poorer academic attainment, Viner said.
"It's time to bring in laws to ban the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to children and young people to tackle the twin epidemics of obesity and mental health problems," he stated, in the new study published in the journal The BMJ.
The high sugar content in many of the energy drinks (as much as 27g of sugar per 250ml serving) "undoubtedly contributes to the overall calorie excess and resultant obesity epidemic among our children".
But perhaps most concerning are the effects on sleep, Viner said, because research has established a clear inverse association between caffeinated energy drinks and sleep duration.
Children and young people in high income countries consume more sugar and calories than required and are therefore unlikely to need additional energy.
This combined with regular caffeine consumption is causing concern as there is little evidence of the effect caffeine could potentially have on the developing body, Viner said.
Instead of binging on energy drinks, humans can get energy naturally from a "good diet, refreshing sleep, exercise and, most importantly, interaction with other people".
While government's consultation must drive a search for improved evidence, "there is now sufficient evidence to act to protect children", Viner noted.