Energy drinks draining healthy teenagers

A recent study by researchers from the University of Waterloo and Dalhousie University found connections between teen energy drink consumption and mental health issues, substance use, and sensation. The findings call for “a reduction in the amount of caffeine in energy drinks and reduced access to the beverages for teens.”

“While it remains unclear why these associations exist, the trend is a concern because of the high rate of consumption among teenagers,” said Sunday Azagba, a researcher from the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at UW.

“The more intense users tend to be more likely to be depressed, they’re more likely to have substance use,” Azagba said, referring to alcohol and marijuana.

The study includes more than 8,200 high school students in Atlantic Canada. About two-thirds of respondents reported consuming an energy drink in the previous year, and about 20 per cent of students said they drank the beverages once or more each month.

Azagba said energy drinks are so popular because of their appealing “temporary benefits” such as “increased alertness, improved mood, and enhanced mental and physical energy.”

“Marketing campaigns appear [to be] designed to entice youth and young adults,” said Azagba.

Energy drinks have been associated with a number of negative health effects, including cardiovascular symptoms, sleep impairment, nervousness, and nausea. The side effects are caused by the beverages&rsquo; high concentration of caffeine.<br />
However, according to an article published on <em>The Guardian&rsquo;s</em> website, the amount of caffeine in Red Bull is less than brewed coffee (per 100g data).

&ldquo;So it&rsquo;s not just the caffeine. There&rsquo;s something else going on here,&rdquo; said Kathleen Miller, a senior scientist at the University at Buffalo.

&ldquo;The trends we are seeing are more than cause for concern,&rdquo; said Azagba, &ldquo;At [the] very least, steps should be taken to limit teens&rsquo; access to energy drinks, to increase public awareness and education about the potential harms of these drinks and to minimize the amount of caffeine available in each unit.&rdquo;