Researchers from Deakin University have raised concerns over an alarming trend among young people turning to energy drinks in their efforts to lose weight.

Women in particular are said to be stocking up on sugar-free sports drinks as the high caffeine content suppresses hunger pangs.

The study, involving 97 women aged between 18 and 25, revealed almost one-third of participants used energy drinks to improve their concentration, prevent hunger or replace a meal entirely.

Professor Ross King, who led the research, says he first discovered a link between energy drinks and eating disorders through his work as a psychologist. “We know people with eating disorders do abuse caffeine so this provides a new avenue for them to use energy drinks as a way of replacing meals and creating a sense of fullness.”

But this over-consumption of caffeine is thought to increases the risk of other health issues such as heart problems and anxiety.

“Because people with eating disorders are physically compromised, I think that’s raised a real concern about issues around energy drink abuse,” said King.

Many of the energy drinks on the market also contain other artificial sweeteners and additives such as guarana , the health effects of which are largely unknown.

King, who believes further research is needed in this area, will present his initial findings at the country’s first energy drink conference at Deakin University on Thursday

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