When teenagers and young people are drinking a standard 500ml energy drink, they may as well sit down and eat 21 teaspoons of sugar.
The energy drink Rockstar in a 500mL serving contains almost 83 grams of sugar and 160 mg of caffeine. Mother (Coca Cola Amatil) in a 500ml serve has 13 teaspoons of sugar and 160mg of caffeine. Even the 250mL cans of Red Bull and Mother have 7 teaspoons of sugar and 80mg of caffeine. Leading health and community organisations such as Diabetes Australia, The Heart Foundation, The Cancer Council, Nutrition Australia and Rethink Sugary Drink Campaign, issuing warnings about the health risks. Energy drink consumption in Australia and New Zealand has increased from 34 million litres in 2001 to 155 million litres in 2010 (Australian Bureau of Statistics).
Health organisations in Australia, are calling for a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks, a public education campaign and restrictions on sales in schools and sports arenas.
In the short term, energy drinks create alertness, stimulation of the nervous system and an increased heart rate, due to the caffeine. Excessive consumption can cause insomnia, nausea, vomiting and heart palpitations. Longer term they are described as a risky drink choice when students are drinking several a day during exams, with the high sugar content in energy drinks increasing the risk of weight gain, increasing the risk of heart and kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer. Furthermore, energy drinks contribute heavily to tooth decay and erosion, where the acid in the drinks is softening the tooth enamel and dissolving it, and the sugar is then allowing attack of the vulnerable tooth structure. In some cases there is rampant decay and severe wear of the tooth structure, with all of the enamel stripped from the teeth.
The Australian Beverages Council reports that data from Australian Bureau of statistics shows that energy drinks were consumed by 1.7% of teenagers in Australia, which reinforces their claims that there is regulation in an effective way, and with drinks not available in secondary schools. The Rethink Sugary Drink Campaign would like tougher regulations on the heavy marketing of energy drinks to youths, given that the major energy drink brands partner heavily with activities that young people engage in, such as music festivals, schoolies celebration and sporting events.
The brands Rockstar and Mother labels their cans to recommend no more than one can a day is consumed, and indicates that the drinks are not marketed to children.
There were 40 calls in 2014-2015 to the NSW Poisons information centre about excessive energy drink consumption for advice regarding adverse symptoms.
The potential risks of drinking more than one can of energy drinks include a caffeine overdose which can lead to palpitations, raised blood pressure, shakes, nausea, vomiting, fits and, in extreme cases, even death. High levels of caffeine reduce the body's response to insulin, and could lead to diabetes.
The World Health Organization has decsribed energy drinks as a "danger to public health," with consumption of such beverages on the rise.
The website Personalise.co.uk has released an infographic which shows what happens to the body in the 24 hours after consuming an energy drink.