Birmingham Public Health nutritionist Charlene Mulhern asks if we need increased awareness of the health dangers of caffeine-rich energy drinks.

Travel to work or school any morning in Birmingham and the chances are you’ll see people ‘topping-up’ their energy levels for the day with an energy drink.

These caffeine-heavy drinks are seen by many people as a quick-fix. If you’ve had a heavy weekend or been out the night before, an early morning can will blow away the cobwebs and set you up for the day to come.

But the thing about quick-fixes is that they’re rarely effective in the long run.

As a nutritionist, I know a healthy breakfast can come in many shapes and sizes – it could be a slice of wholemeal toast, some fruit or a bowl of porridge. It doesn’t come in a can of high-caffeine rocket fuel.

When Birmingham Updates asked me to look at the issue of energy drinks, I took the opportunity to do a little research.

2012 report in Australia highlighted the risks of over-consumption. Data gathered over seven years by the Australian Poisons Center showed that common side effects associated with these drinks included: palpitations, shaking, restlessness, stomach upset, chest pain, insomnia and headache.

Scary stuff.

Add to that reports linking consumption to increased risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and poor dental health and it’s hard to see why energy drinks are so popular.

But popular they are – even with our children.

Earlier this year the NASUWT teachers’ union’s annual conference in Cardiff heard warnings about the risks of pupils staying up late at night and then relying on a boost from energy drinks before school the next morning.

That can lead to disruption in the classroom and reduced levels of concentration followed by the inevitable crash later in the school day when the impact of these drinks wears off.

And who knows what health problems that might be storing up for years to come.

Now these drinks are legal and I’m not for one minute suggesting they be banned. They carry labels warning that they are not suitable for children or pregnant women. But should they come with more detailed health warnings? Should people be more aware of the potential dangers of regular consumption?

I think there should be increased awareness of the issue, so that people can at least make an informed choice. What do you think?