Health Moves

There is a ban on en­ergy drinks in Mal­dives schools. There could be lessons in this for schools in other South Asian coun­tries.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Mu­kee Bano

The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion of the Mal­dives has re­cently banned posses­sion, sale and con­sump­tion of en­ergy drinks in all the Mal­di­vian schools. This ban in­cludes ad­ver­tise­ment, pro­mo­tion, spon­sor­ing school events and sports ac­tiv­i­ties by power drinks sell­ers. It has also banned stu­dents and school teach­ers from bring­ing th­ese drinks to school.

The ed­u­ca­tion min­istry says the ini­tia­tive has been taken to pro­tect young peo­ple from the harm­ful ef­fects of en­ergy drinks. For any school ac­tiv­ity or event, school man­age­ments can­not use spon­sor­ship of such drinks. In ad­di­tion to that, the Min­istry of Hous­ing and In­fra­struc­ture has banned ad­ver­tis­ing of en­ergy drinks at all pub­lic spa­ces across Male city. There is also a ban on the sell­ing of such drinks in hospi­tal cafes. Since 2009, the Mal­dives Food and Drugs Au­thor­ity (FDA) has banned the im­port and sell­ing of Red Bull prod­ucts.

There is con­clu­sive ev­i­dence that en­ergy drinks have no health ben­e­fits. In fact, the com­bi­na­tion of dif­fer­ent chem­i­cals is likely to do more harm than good, par­tic­u­larly for chil­dren. Some side ef­fects of th­ese drinks in­clude el­e­vated heart rate, hy­per­ten­sion, anx­i­ety and in­ter­rupted sleep pat­tern. A re­cent study by the Univer­sity of Mi­ami sug­gests that con­sump­tion of fizzy drinks can cause such se­ri­ous is­sues as heart pal­pi­ta­tion and lead­ing to sud­den death.

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics (AAP), “there is no rea­son at all for chil­dren and teenagers to have en­ergy drinks. Such drinks con­tain stim­u­lants in­clud­ing caf­feine, guarana, tau­rine and gin­seng. Guarana is a plant ex­tract that is a com­mon stim­u­lant in­gre­di­ent in en­ergy drinks. One gram of guarana equals about 40 mg of caf­feine. There are con­cerns about the ef­fect of caf­feine on the de­vel­op­ing ner­vous sys­tem of chil­dren. Caf­feine with­drawal can cause trou­bling symp­toms such as headache, fa­tigue, ir­ri­tabil­ity and other prob­lems.

Pro­vid­ing ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion to its youth is the main pri­or­ity of the Mal­di­vian gov­ern­ment. Schools across the coun­try have a com­mon cur­ricu­lum from 1 to 7 grades and the net en­rol­ment ra­tio is 95 per­cent. The lit­er­acy rate is over 98 per­cent with 49 per­cent fe­males and 51 per­cent males. While ed­u­ca­tion is play­ing a sig­nif­i­cant role in the coun­try’s de­vel­op­ment, there is con­cern about youth de­vel­op­ment in terms of health, ed­u­ca­tion and drug abuse.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mal­dives In­de­pen­dent, a lead­ing news­pa­per, the gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to hike im­port du­ties on en­ergy and fizzy drinks by 20 per­cent. Ac­cord­ing to statis­tics pub­lished by the cus­toms

au­thor­ity, 19 mil­lion en­ergy drink cans were im­ported into the Mal­dives in 2015.

“Any ad­ver­tise­ment of an en­ergy drink on roads ad­ja­cent to schools or power drink ad­ver­tise­ments that are vis­i­ble while in­side schools should be re­ported to the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry.” reads a cir­cu­lar. The min­istry says the cir­cu­lar was is­sued af­ter the pres­i­dent’s of­fice com­mu­ni­cated its de­ci­sion to ban en­ergy drinks in schools. This step by the Mal­di­vian gov­ern­ment came due to the neg­a­tive ef­fect on plans to launch a health aware­ness cam­paign.

The Ta­ble Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion (TTA) of the Mal­dives has also put a ban on us­ing en­ergy drinks in its so­cial cen­tres. "This is a harm­ful prod­uct in all as­pects. Some groups should take the ini­tia­tive to ban en­ergy drinks. We hope that other as­so­ci­a­tions would also do it,” says Is­mail Su­jau, Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, TTA.

Ear­lier, en­ergy drinks were fre­quently ad­ver­tised and spon­sored dur­ing many school ac­tiv­i­ties as well as events or­ga­nized by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion. The con­sump­tion of en­ergy drinks was com­mon among the Mal­di­vian youth.

More than half of the adult pop­u­la­tion of the Mal­dives has high choles­terol and over a third of adult men are reg­u­lar tobacco smok­ers. Smok­ing was banned in pub­lic places in Jan­uary 2013. It was the first tobacco con­trol reg­u­la­tion in the coun­try that showed steps were be­ing taken by the gov­ern­ment to tackle un­healthy life­styles. The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) re­ports that the Mal­dives had achieved all healthre­lated Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals (MDGs) ahead of the 2015 dead­line.

TV ad­ver­tise­ments of en­ergy drinks also have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on the chil­dren’s mind. Kids may un­wit­tingly in­gest large amounts of caf­feine or other stim­u­lants as a re­sult of th­ese ads. Schools need to in­cor­po­rate such sub­jects in the cur­ricu­lum that pro­mote a healthy lifestyle. Fit­ness work­shops should also be or­ga­nized by the gov­ern­ment for par­ents and teach­ers.

A bal­anced diet for kids and teens in­cludes di­etary car­bo­hy­drates rather than drinks high in caf­feine or ar­ti­fi­cial stim­u­lants. Chil­dren should pri­mar­ily rely on wa­ter and ob­tain their car­bo­hy­drates from or­ganic prod­ucts. Fruit juice and milk are good liq­uid sources of car­bo­hy­drates un­less the child is in­volved in pro­longed in­ten­sive phys­i­cal or ath­letic ac­tiv­ity. En­ergy drinks are not the sub­sti­tute for wa­ter and are po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous for chil­dren.

Com­mit­ted to build­ing a healthy so­ci­ety, the Mal­di­vian gov­ern­ment seems to be mak­ing the right moves.

More than half of the adult pop­u­la­tion of the Mal­dives has high choles­terol and over a third of adult men are reg­u­lar tobacco smok­ers.

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