Make energy drinks R16 - heart specialist

A top Kiwi heart specialist is calling for energy drinks to be banned for those under 16 years of age.

New research shows the negative effects the caffeinated sugary drinks can have, with young people reporting fast heart rates, insomnia, headaches and in some cases even seizures.

Cardiologist Dr Harvey White says energy drinks are more harmful than most people probably realise. 

"The drinks are bad in a number of ways. The first thing is the caffeine, it's equivalent to two espresso - four or five cups of coffee and the sugar."

He says it's a nasty combination, and when the drinks are mixed with alcohol the effects can be even worse.

"I see these patients, they come in with racing hearts, they feel unwell, they may have a low blood pressure, they may have chest discomfort and we may have to give them a shock across the heart."

Dr White is now calling for a ban on energy drinks for those under 16.

"Seventy percent of teenagers drink them. Twenty-four percent of kids under 10 have drunk them, and that can be catastrophic."

His controversial idea comes as a new study shows what energy drinks can do to young people.

Researchers surveyed more than 2000 Canadians aged 12 to 24 who had consumed energy drinks.

More than 55 percent reported health issues including a fast heartbeat, trouble sleeping, headaches, vomiting and even seizures.

AUT Nutrition Professor Elaine Rush says the energy drink industry needs to make some major changes.

"We need to look at regulating where they are sold, how they are sold, when they are sold and what with they are sold - including alcohol - and how they are marketed to children."

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is also on a campaign to ban the sale of the beverages to those under 16.

He has repeatedly asked UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt via social media to put age restrictions on energy drinks.