BACKGROUND: This overview and analysis of UK datasets was commissioned by the UK government to address concerns about children's consumption of caffeinated energy drinks and their effects on health and behaviour.
METHODS: We searched nine databases for systematic reviews, published between 2013 and July 2021, in English, assessing caffeinated energy drink consumption by people under 18 years old (children). Two reviewers rated or checked risk of bias using AMSTAR2, and extracted and synthesised findings. We searched the UK Data Service for country-representative datasets, reporting children's energy-drink consumption, and conducted bivariate or latent class analyses.
RESULTS: For the overview, we included 15 systematic reviews; six reported drinking prevalence and 14 reported associations between drinking and health or behaviour. AMSTAR2 ratings were low or critically low. Worldwide, across reviews, from 13% to 67% of children had consumed energy drinks in the past year. Only two of the 74 studies in the reviews were UK-based. For the dataset analysis, we identified and included five UK cross-sectional datasets, and found that 3% to 32% of children, across UK countries, consumed energy drinks weekly, with no difference by ethnicity. Frequent drinking (5 or more days per week) was associated with low psychological, physical, educational and overall well-being. Evidence from reviews and datasets suggested that boys drank more than girls, and drinking was associated with more headaches, sleep problems, alcohol use, smoking, irritability, and school exclusion. GRADE (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation) assessment suggests that the evidence is weak.
CONCLUSIONS: Weak evidence suggests that up to a third of children in the UK consume caffeinated energy drinks weekly; and drinking 5 or more days per week is associated with some health and behaviour problems. Most of the evidence is from surveys, making it impossible to distinguish cause from effect. Randomised controlled trials are unlikely to be ethical; longitudinal studies could provide stronger evidence.
PROSPERO REGISTRATIONS: CRD42018096292 - no deviations. CRD42018110498 - one deviation - a latent class analysis was conducted.