Food experts: "Ban energy drinks for youngsters under 16"

60 percent of children and teenagers in Belgium have the habit of consuming energy drinks on a regular basis. That's according to research carried out among 1,200 youngsters between 12 and 18 years of age. "It's a lot", says paediatrician Thierry Devreker of the Free Brussels University (VUB), "especially when you take into account that 18 percent drinks it on a daily basis. These energy boosters are not very healthy for youngsters, because they contain too much caffeine, experts explain.

"An energy drink contains caffeine, sugar and water. But it's the caffeine that does it. It works on the heart and the muscles, but also on the brain. The caffeine in combination with sugar makes youngsters feel they can handle anything. It's considered as a legal drug", explains toxicologist Jan Tytgat of Leuven University (KU Leuven).

Tytgat uses the word drug, because caffeine also impacts on the brain, creating a feeling of craving, and the wish to use it again. One energy drink can contain 150 mg of caffeine, which is already more than the maximum dose advised for youngsters under 16 (125 mg daily on average, depending on the weight).

At present, energy drink cans state a clear warning: "Not advised for children". For Tytgat, this should be "under 16 years".

Various food experts are calling for a general ban for energy boosters for children under 16. A start could be made by banning sales in shops, they say.

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