Chugging energy drinks may be linked to a greater risk of having an accident that incurs brain damage, according to new research. Teenagers who reported a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the past year were seven times more likely to have consumed at least five energy drinks in the past week than those without a history of TBI, according to the study.
Researchers analyzed data from approximately 10,000 students, ages 11 to 10 collected by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey. The defined a traumatic brain injury as an incident the resulted in a loss of consciousness for at least five minutes or being hospitalized for at least one night.
“We’ve found a link between increased brain injuries and the consumption of energy drinks or energy drinks mixed with alcohol,” Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Ontario and one of the study’s authors said in a hospital release. “This is significant because energy drinks have previously been associated with general injuries, but not specifically with TBI.” The authors wrote that the contents of the beverages may interfere with the brain’s recovery efforts.
But it’s not only teens mixing cocktails with energy drinks to get wasted who are hitting their heads, it’s also young athletes drinking the beverages to boost performance who are getting hurt. Teens who reported suffering a TBI in the past year while playing sports were twice as likely to consume energy drinks as teens who reported a TBI from other injuries in the same time period, according to the release.
"I think that energy drinks appeal to teens, especially athletes, because the drinks provide temporary benefits such as increased alertness, improved mood and enhanced mental and physical states," said Dr. Cusimano. "Advertisements for the drinks also often feature prominent athletes."
The study authors wrote that a better understanding of the link between TBI and energy drinks could help professionals better prevent, diagnose and treat brain injuries. Results of the study were published in the journal PLOS ONE and noted on sciencedaily.com.
Recently, Dartmouth University researchers found that nearly half of all ads for energy drinks are aimed at teens.