Energy drink consumption skyrockets

National food authority commissions study of Danish energy drink consumption after spike in sales and reports of increasing popularity among school children

Sales of energy drinks doubled to 8.75 million litres in 2012, worrying experts concerned by the potential health impact of the stimulant-packed drinks.

The increasing popularity of the drinks, which are loaded with stimulants including caffeine and taurine, has lead the national food authority, Fødevarestyreslen, to demand a study of Danish energy drink consumption that will be ready in 2014.

According to Fødevarestyreslen, the use of energy drinks by children is of particular concern given that the drinks have been known to raise blood pressure.

While the drinks may not be harmful for most people, Boye L Jensen, a doctor and researcher at the University of Southern Denmark, said they could prove risky for the 260,000 Danes who are thought to have undiagnosed high blood pressure.

“Moderate levels of caffeine are generally not dangerous for healthy people even though its consumption may lead to a temporary spike in blood pressure,” Jensen told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “But for people who unknowingly live with elevated blood pressure, caffeine will make it rise even further, and if combined with further physical exertion such as hard work or exercise, this could increase the risk of suffering from blood clots and strokes.”

Fødevarestyreslen states that drinks containing high levels of sugar stimulants can have other unwelcome effects including increased irritability, headaches and stomach problems, particularly in children.

Some schools, such as Tranebjerg School on Samsø, have reportedly banned their students from bringing the drinks in with them after the discovery that the drinks had become highly popular.

The popularity of the drinks among children has led MP Per Clausen (Enhedslisten) to demand that energy drinks be as highly regulated as alcohol, though MP Erling Bonnessen (Venstre) disagreed.

“It’s the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children are eating and drinking healthily, as there are other unhealthy things to be found on shop shelves,” Bonnessen told Jyllands-Posten, though he added that the contents of energy drinks may need to be better labelled. “There may be a number of people, including adults, who are not entirely sure what energy drinks contain. This should be taken up by schools and I praise those that have taken responsibility and banned unhealthy substances. But I want to underline that as far as children and energy drinks are concerned, it’s the primary responsibility of parents.”

Royal Unibrew produces one of the most popular energy drinks on the market, Faxe Kondi Booster. The company's head of marketing, Michael Schiedel, rejected the notion that the drink is problematic.

“The world would be sadly rather grey if our consumption of food was only controlled by what is nutritionally correct,” Schiedel told Jyllands-Posten. “Energy drinks belong to a group of luxury consumer products that ought to be consumed in moderation. We follow all the relevant legislation and clearly declare the product's contents.”