Energy drinks, risky behaviour among collegians linked

July 25th, 2008 - 4:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 25 (IANS) Energy drinks with global sales over $3 billion a year have also been linked with highly risky behaviours among college students. Two research reports by University of Buffalo’s Kathleen E. Miller, an assistant professor and sociologist, examined the link between energy drink consumption and risk-taking in college students.

“The principal target demographic for energy drinks is young adults aged 18-25 but they’re nearly as common among younger teens,” she explained.

“This is a concern because energy drinks typically contain three times the caffeine of a soft drink, and in some cases, up to 10 times as much. They also include ingredients with potential interactions such as taurine and other amino acids, massive doses of vitamins, and plant and herbal extracts.”

Frequent energy drink consumers, according to Miller’s findings, were three times as likely than less-frequent energy drink consumers to have smoked cigarettes, abused prescription drugs and been in a serious physical fight earlier.

They reported drinking alcohol, having alcohol-related problems and using marijuana about twice as often as non-consumers. They were also more likely to engage in other forms of risk-taking, including unsafe sex, not using a seat belt, participating in an extreme sport and doing something dangerous on a dare.

A total of 795 Western New York male and female undergraduate students participated in the study and 39 percent reported consuming at least one energy drink in the previous month.

There was significantly higher consumption by men (46 percent) than by women (31 percent) and higher consumption by whites (40 percent) than by blacks (25 percent). Eighty-seven percent of the students in the study were white; 52 percent were male.

Two-thirds of the energy drink consumers in Miller’s study had used energy drinks as mixers with alcoholic beverages. The growing popularity of this practice further heightens concern, Miller says.

“It is widely, but incorrectly, believed that the caffeine in energy drinks counteracts the effects of alcohol, so students will have the energy to party all night without getting as drunk,” she explained.

“Energy drink consumption is correlated with substance use, unsafe sexual activity and several other forms of risk-taking,” Miller noted.

“For parents and college officials, frequent energy drink consumption may be a red flag or warning sign for identifying a young person at higher risk for health-compromising behaviour.

“For many people, being an athlete is an important part of who they are,” Miller explained. “Some go a step farther, though, and come to see themselves as ‘jocks’.”

These findings were published online in Journal of Adolescent Health and Journal of American College Health.”

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