Energy drinks linked to teens’ brain injury, Report Says

Energy drinks linked to teens' brain injury, new study shows

Teens who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) were seven times more likely to have drank at least five energy drinks in the week before, a new study shows.

Researchers found that teens who reported having a traumatic brain injury in the past year were seven times more likely to report drinking at least five energy drinks in the last week, compared to teens who did not have a traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

The new report, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, looked at 2013 survey information from 10,272 students from 7th to 12th grade. Teens who experienced a TBI in the last 12 months were at least twice more likely to report drinking energy drinks mixed with alcohol. In addition, teens who got a TBI while playing team sports like hockey had double the odds of drinking energy drinks in the last year, compared to teens who suffered a TBI from other injuries like fights or a car accident.

“We think the common denominator between traumatic brain injuries and energy drinks is sports,” says study author Gabriela Ilie, of the division of Neurosurgery and Injury Prevention Research Office at St. Michael’s Hospital. “Marketing campaigns for energy drinks usually are carefully crafted to include sponsorship of events that are very appealing to this age group, like snowboarding.”

The reported use of energy drinks and alcohol among young people is of special concern, the study authors say. Prior research has suggested that caffeine can mask the effects of alcohol, making it more difficult for a person to determine when they should stop drinking.

“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,” says Ilie. “Let us keep in mind that our brain doesn’t stop developing until mid-20s or even early 30s.”

The researchers cannot draw a causal link between energy drinks and TBIs from their data. Ilie says the effects of energy drinks on a healthy brain are still very little understood, and more research is needed to understand the connection.