Study Links Energy Drinks and Brain Injuries in Teens

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Energy Drinks and Brain InjuriesResearchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto have found a link between teenage consumption of energy drinks and a dramatically increased risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The study suggests that teens who had experienced recent traumatic brain injury were seven times more likely to have high rates of energy drink consumption—at least five in the past week.

For the purposes of the study, only mild to severe TBIs were examined. This is defined as an injury resulting in a loss of consciousness for at least five minutes or one that results in an overnight hospital stay. TBI has been on the rise among adolescents in both the U.S. and Canada, with a 57% increase being noted since 2001. Head injuries are always concerning, but the risks and consequences are greater for adolescents due to their still-developing brains.

The study used a sample size of 10,272 high school students between the ages of 11 and 20. Of this group, 22% had a history of TBI. In addition, teens who experienced a recent TBI (defined as being within the past year) were seven times more likely to have consumed at least five energy drinks in a week; those who reported a TBI were also twice as likely to have mixed alcohol with their energy drinks.

While the researchers have noted a link between energy drink consumption and TBIs in adolescents, their finding is a correlation at this time, not a causation. As the study itself observes, more investigation is needed to understand the context in which the energy drinks were consumed and whether they are contributing or consequential factors, or if energy drink consumption and TBIs are linked by a different underlying element. Concerns about how the caffeine and other chemical contents in an energy drink could affect TBI recovery also require further investigation.

Source for Today’s Article:
Ilie, G., et al., “Energy Drinks, Alcohol, Sports and Traumatic Brain Injuries among Adolescents,” PLOS ONE 2015; 10(9), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0135860.

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