Using research to inform public health debate and policy making

Dr Amelia Lake is a dietitian and Reader in Public Health Nutrition at Teesside University. With her colleagues from Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, she worked on research looking at the association between energy drink intake and health and wellbeing in children that has informed the national debate on this important issue.

Research published in BMJ Open (Visram et al 2016) highlighted the range of adverse outcomes that can be caused by high intake of these drinks, including headaches, stomach aches, hyperactivity and insomnia.

Collaborative research looked at what influenced children and young people to drink energy drinks. It found that children have strong brand awareness and are attracted by the affordability and widespread availability of these products.

Marketing was found to be particularly geared towards young men. The research recommended a range of possible interventions to reduce young people’s intake of the often high-sugar, high-caffeine beverages, including age limits, improved labelling and interventions to help children and young people understand the health impacts of these drinks. 

These papers had significant impact, being picked up by a number of national campaigning groups, including the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, as well as by the national press.

Many supermarkets have now voluntarily taken steps to ban sales of these drinks to under-16s. Dr Lake will be giving evidence to the Science and Technology Select Committee later in June on this topic.

Read the research, the study was funded by The Children’s Foundation and supported by local partners in County Durham, North East England.