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Sugar and caffeine in energy drinks worrisome: WHO

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The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office in Europe is warning the public about the risks of children drinking easily available energy drinks.

Energy drinks are not regulated by age like alcohol and tobacco, exposing youths to the developmental health dangers associated with their consumption is of great concern, according to a study published by WHO Europe on Tuesday.

The main problem with energy drinks stem from their high caffeine content which can cause irregular heartbeats, nausea, hypertension, convulsions, and even psychosis and death. In addition, 70 percent of 18-19 year olds are said to mix energy drinks with alcohol.

The average recommended intake of caffeine for adults is around 400mg, or roughly five cups of coffee. Most adults drink hot coffee in sips, however, children tend to gulp down cold energy drinks - which often contain twice the amount of caffeine than a cup of joe -- making it extremely easy for them to drink far more than the daily recommendation.

WHO officials warn that unless major changes are made to put restrictions on the amount of caffeine allowed in a single serving of the energy drinks, plus major marketing shifts away from children - and even putting restrictions on sales to those under 18 - there will be severe health and safety risks that medical workers will have to address in the near future.

Reports have shown that since 2004, at least 34 people have died in the United States due to energy drink related symptoms. Among the fatalities include a 16-year old girl who had a heart attack in Mexico last summer.

Some European countries have already been enforcing limitations on the sales of energy drinks, according to the WHO report.

"Hungary introduced a public health tax that includes energy drinks in 2012. In Sweden, sales of some types of energy drinks are restricted to pharmacies and sales to children are banned," it states.

WHO warns that more research is required to investigate the detrimental effect that energy drinks have on youths, and more education should be done to make the public aware of the risk of such an unregulated industry.

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