Energy Drinks Linked to Bad Behavior

Including smoking, video game binges

May 6, 2014
Outside Magazine
Red Bull gives you... cigarette breath as a child?

Red Bull gives you... cigarette breath as a child?    Jani Bryson/ThinkStock

Been sippin' the Gatorade haterade for a while? Feel vindicated: Those who drink Rockstar might experience rockstar-length lifespans. A new study out of the University of Minnesota and Duke University found high correlation between energy and sports drink consumption and bad behavior in adolescents.

Researchers analyzed body metrics and student-completed lifestyle surveys from 20 public middle and high schools that participated in a 2010 adolescent health study. The researchers noticed that although those students drinking more sugary boosters were more likely to engage in physical activity than their Amp-ascetic peers, they were also more likely to smoke, drink sugary beverages, and spend more time in front of screens.

In a striking example, boys who regularly seek energy boosts spent an additional hour watching TV and four hours playing video games each week.

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, was undertaken to improve understanding of how sugary beverages fit into adolescent health behavior patterns, which would then inform intervention strategies. Though national consumption of soft drinks and fruit drinks has dropped, children are compensating by tripling consumption of allegedly healthier sports drinks—some highly sweetened, caffeinated, and flame retardant.

Medical experts have long preached the physiological dangers of childhood energy-drink consumption, and caffeine consumption in general. A 2012 study found that mixes of chemicals and caffeine could drastically impede youth heart function. And it's not just kids who are at risk; energy drink–related emergency room visits more than doubled between 2007 and 2011, with the largest increase in the 40-and-older demographic.

Granted, the subjects were middle school students—they have a few years to go before their frontal lobes take the lead in making good life choices. If you're a fully functioning adult who thinks exercising gives you the right to fuel willy-nilly, however, consider swapping energy drinks for a healthier means of getting a buzz—vegetable juice, tea, or even homemade energy drinks without all the chemicals. Here at Outside, coffee rules.

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