AESAN calls for regulatory clarity on energy drink formulation

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Energy drinks Caffeine Vitamin b12 AESAN functional beverage beverage

Spain’s Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) has reiterated advice to reduce energy drink consumption especially among minors due to caffeine’s effect on sleep and the cardiovascular system.

In a presentation of the report​, Spanish Minister of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón warned of the growing trend in the consumption of these beverages by young people.

The trend is further exacerbated by ambiguous legislation that defines the product as a soft drink and gives no guidelines as to permitted ingredients, maximum concentrations or possible combinations.

AESAN wants to see, in collaboration with industry, consumer information to be included in the labelling of energy drinks, to not only feature all active ingredients but also their content.”

“Spain must join European efforts to collect data on beverage consumption, energy sources and trends in their consumption, which will allow evaluation of these energy drinks dietary and exposure to caffeine and other active ingredients in specific consumer groups.

“In addition, a greater control of advertising is suggested especially that directed to more susceptible populations.”

The report, which was prepared by AESAN’s Scientific Committee, outlines some of the health risks that are linked to the main ingredients of popular energy drinks.

These include caffeine, which The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment (VKM) in 2019, estimated energy drinks to contain 15 – 55mg of caffeine per 100 millilitres.

Further evidence of its popularity amongst adolescents came in ‘The Ungkost3 Norwegian study,’ which estimated that energy drinks contributed up to 76% of total dietary caffeine (36.8 mg/day), where the  daily caffeine consumption was estimated at 48.4 mg/day.

The report details its health effects, now well established, and includes a lower quality of sleep in subjects sensitive to caffeine, nervousness, irritability and anxiety.

Cardiovascular concerns

More serious is the increased risk in heart rate, arrhythmias and blood pressure. The report also highlights caffeine’s effect specifically on young adults, where high intake of energy drinks (around 1 Litre) is associated with interval Prolonged QTc and palpitations)

“This is why the population groups that may be more susceptible to the adverse effects of energy drinks and caffeine include people with a predisposition to certain heart disorders and conditions such as congenital long QT syndrome,” ​the report states.

The report also discusses the impact of taurine consumption, especially at the levels contained in energy drinks.

Current estimates place a standard 250ml energy drink formulation as containing 1000mg of taurine (4000 mg/l), although some countries, such as Germany, have permitted regulatory limits have been established relating to taurine of 4000 mg/l.

The report points out that since seafood and meat contains significant amounts of taurine, consuming one or two of these energy drinks could push an individual's daily intake to exceed accepted limits.

While taurine consumption has been associated with normal development, activity and cyto-protection of the nervous system, a number of studies show evidence of cardiovascular and neurological effects.

The European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that regular exposures to taurine at levels used in energy drinks (4000 mg taurine/l) ‘do not represent a risk to the health of consumers.’

Vitamin issues

The report also highlights the presence of vitamins in energy drinks, in which energy drinks are fortified with.

Generally, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 ​​and B12 are the vitamins of choice due to their solubility in water and relative ease in urinary excretion.

“Vitamin levels of concern are not reached by the energy drinks present in our markets,”​ states the report.

“It would not be expected to find cases of hypervitaminosis derived from its intake. If they occur, the derived disorders would be nausea and liver disorders.

“The samples present in the Spanish markets do not exceed these vitamin B3 contents.”

The report concludes by highlighting annual monitoring of consumption trends as critical in the formulation of policies designed to increase population knowledge, risk perception and minimise possible risks associated with the excessive consumption of energy drinks.

“Remember that energy drinks are not recommended for children, pregnant women or while breastfeeding.”

“Future actions should evaluate the consumption, exposure and risk of other "models of caffeine consumption such as so-called “shots ”or“ caffeine/energy shots,” as well as commercial products available in smaller-sized formats.”

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