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Concern About Energy Drinks And Young People

Energy Drinks

Health warnings in relation to energy drinks are becoming commonplace, with the general message that they should either be consumed in moderation or avoided altogether. A new concern centers on the brains of young people.

Energy drinks are popular due to their ability to lift energy levels over the short term, which seems ideal for those who want to party all night or cram for exams. However, the ingredients that some of these drinks contain are not always suitable.

The new concern comes from the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), based on the findings of its Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS)​ report (based on data collected during 2013). The survey included the responses of 10,000 students (aged between 11 and 20).

The aspect of the survey considered here is the connected of regular consumption of energy and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). TBI’s are head injuries where there is a loss of consciousness for at least five minutes and where the injury is of sufficient concern that a hospital stay of a minimum of one night is required.

According to a review of the study by Lab Roots, young people who experienced a traumatic brain injury were found to be seven times more likely to have had at least five energy drinks in the week preceding the incident. Moreover, young people who reported suffering a TBI in a given year were twice as likely to have ingested an energy drink mixed with alcohol compared with other students.

Commenting on this, Gabriela Ilie (Neurosurgery and Injury Prevention Office at St. Michael’s, who was involved with study), told Time magazine  :

“Mix [the energy drinks] with alcohol and suddenly the effects of energy drinks alone pale in comparison to the physical and emotional risks posed by this mixture to a developing brain. Let us keep in mind that our brain doesn’t stop developing until mid-20s or even early 30s.”

The findings are published in the journal PLOS One in a paper titled “Energy Drinks, Alcohol, Sports and Traumatic Brain Injuries among Adolescents.”

In related news, a separate energy drinks study found a correlation between consumption of energy drinks and drug use. This was based on a finding made by the American Psychological Association. Care needs to be taken with these types of correlations as they do not imply causation and socio-economic and demographic factors could some equally strong correlations.

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.