EnergyDrinks01We are increasingly concerned about the number of pupils and students who are bringing high energy / high sugar content drinks (e.g.  Rockstar, Red Bull, Monster, Tornado, Lucozade Energy/Sport) into school or drinking them on the way to school in view of the adverse effects these can have on children and young people. We aware that other schools and their teachers have similar concerns.

Common ingredients used in energy drinks include high levels of caffeine together with other ingredients that have been associated with adverse effects if consumed in large doses, e.g. nervousness and anxiety, stomach upsets, seizures, rapid heartbeat and altered blood pressure.

In addition, research has highlighted the following potential problems that can arise through children and young people drinking large amounts of energy drinks; heart problems; effects on children who have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or eating disorders; effects on calorie intake and diabetes and effects on bone mineralisation. 

The UK’s Committee on Toxicity advises that children younger than 16 years old should avoid drinks with high caffeine content. The UK Food Standards Agency advises “Children, or other people sensitive to caffeine, should only consume caffeine in moderation”.

Obviously, in addition to our concerns about the long term health and well-being of our pupils and students, we are concerned about the adverse effects these drinks have on children’s behaviour and preparedness for learning whilst in school, if they are consumed before or during the school day.

Some of our pupils and students, when asked, have said they are having the drinks because it helps with their tiredness. There is evidence of the detrimental effect on a young person who stays up late playing games/using social media etc., gets up very tired and lethargic and then uses energy drinks to get started for the day.  There are many problems with this course of action, but the most obvious is that these drinks do not have any slow release nutrients, they are designed to be a ‘quick start’ solution and so blood sugar levels go from very low to very high and back down again whilst the young person is in school. This ‘sugar crash’ can lead to hunger, irritability, headache, fatigue, lethargy, light headedness, confusion, difficulty concentrating and anxiety, none of which are helpful for learning.

Ideally, as we are sure you are aware; a young person should have a good night’s sleep followed by a healthy breakfast at the start of the day. This could be either before leaving home but if not; our canteen serves breakfast from 8.00 am to 8.30 am. We often encounter children coming into school in the morning either eating or bringing with them sugary products like cookies and doughnuts bought from local retailers on their way to school probably using cash provided by their parents as a child’s “dinner money”. These are not a good substitute for a healthy breakfast.

The importance of healthy eating is taught in school in a number of different ways and across a range of subjects but particularly in Food Technology lessons. This includes the issues surrounding high energy drinks and other sugary drinks and food. However whereas many pupils take on board these messages, some do not.

Our school canteen operates a “cashless system” whereby parents credit their child’s account with money in order to pay for healthy food bought in the canteen. Parents utilising this facility can be sure that the money they provide for their child’s food during the day is not spent buying unhealthy food and drinks on the way to school. This was one of the main benefits we thought about when we introduced our “cashless catering” system.  Follow the link below to find out more about “cashless catering” in Highams Park School.

Given all the above evidence and issues we are asking parents to carefully consider whether it is in the best interests of their child to allow them to consume, buy or bring these types of drinks and sugary foods into school.

If you wish to read further about energy drinks, sleep and breakfast the following links will be useful.

Energy Drinks:

http://www.nhs.uk/news/2011/05May/Pages/energy-drinks-and-children.aspx

https://www.food.gov.uk/science/additives/energydrinks

Sleep:

http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/teens-and-sleep/page/0/1

Breakfast:

http://www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/Pages/breakfast-for-life.aspx

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