Energy drinks are the threat to public health, especially to young people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Energy drinks usually contain caffeine and vitamins, along with guarana, ginseng, taurine and other ingredients meant to supply energy and feelings of well-being. They do not contain alcohol, although many users mix them into cocktails.

The European Food Safety Authority states that 18 percent of children, along with 68 percent of adolescents and three out of ten adults consume energy drinks.

"As energy drink sales are rarely regulated by age, unlike alcohol and tobacco, and there is a proven potential negative effect on children, there is the potential for a significant public health problem in the future," World Health Organization managers state in the report.

João Breda, a researcher of noncommunicable diseases at WHO Europe, led the meta-study warning of potential dangers posed by energy drinks.

The study suggests several changes which could reduce the intake of potentially harmful ingredients by children. These include regulating the maximum amount of caffeine allowed in each serving of the drinks, along with age restrictions and changes to labeling.

Caffeine intoxication can result when quantities of the stimulant are consumed quickly. Heath problems caused by excessive intake of the drug can include high blood pressure, heart palpitations and nausea.

The WHO report also calls for additional training of health care personnel, centered on the symptoms and risks of excessive intake of energy drinks. Mixture of energy drinks with alcohol can pose dangers, especially to those with previous substance abuse problems, the study reveals.

Sweden limits sales of energy drinks to pharmacies, and children are prohibited from buying or possessing the drinks. In 2012, the government of Hungary passed a health tax which includes the high-energy beverages.

"A review of the literature was conducted to identify published articles that examined the health risks, consequences, and policies related to energy drink consumption. The health risks associated with energy drink consumption are primarily related to their caffeine content, but more research is needed that evaluates the long-term effects of consuming common energy drink ingredients," researchers wrote in an article detailing their meta-study.

Researchers conclude that the health effects of energy drinks, particularly on young people, have been largely ignored. They also believe that the drinks could pose a serious health problem worldwide as adolescents grow into full adulthood.

Study of the health effects of energy drinks was profiled in the open-access journal Frontiers in Public Health.

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