http://www.digitaljournal.com/science/study-links-energy-drinks-to-traumatic-brain-injuries-in-teens/article/444152

Energy drinks tied to traumatic brain injury in teenagers

Posted Sep 18, 2015 by Megan Hamilton
A new study says teenagers who reported suffering a traumatic brain injury in the past year were seven times likelier to have consumed at least five energy drinks in the past week than teens who had no history of traumatic brain injury.
An array of energy drinks on a shelf
An array of energy drinks on a shelf
Simon le nippon
Published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, the study also found teens who reported sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI) were twice as likely to have mixed energy drinks with alcohol, compared with teens who reported sustaining a TBI more than a year ago, CTV News reports.
Additionally, teens who received a TBI while playing team sports, such as hockey, had twice the odds of drinking energy drinks in the last year, compared to teens who suffered a TBI that resulted from other injuries, such as fights or a car accident, Time reports.
Toronto Maple Leafs drop fourth straight (03.22.2014)
Toronto Maple Leafs drop fourth straight (03.22.2014)
NHL / screengrab
Data for the study came from the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, CTV News reports. Over 10,000 students from Ontario who were between the ages of 11 to 20 participated in the self-administered survey. For the survey, TBI was defined as an injury resulting in the loss of consciousness for five minutes or more, or being hospitalized for at least one night. Around 22 percent of the students who participated reported that they had sustained a TBI in the past year, and sports injuries accounted for almost half of the cases, according to the study.
"We think the common denominator between traumatic brain injuries and energy drinks is sports," study author Gabriela Ilie, of the division of Neurosurgery and Injury Prevention Research Office at St. Michael's Hospital told Time. "Marketing campaigns for energy drinks usually are carefully crafted to include sponsorship of events that are very appealing to this age group, like snowboarding."
"I think that energy drinks appeal to teens, especially athletes, because the drinks provide temporary benefits such as increased alertness, improved mood and enhanced mental and physical states," said Dr. Michael Cusimano, co-author of the study and a neurosurgeon at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Neuroscience News reports.
The study authors say the reported use of energy drinks and alcohol among teenagers is worrisome. Previous research suggests that caffeine can mask the effects of alcohol, making it harder 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," Ilie says. "Let us keep in mind that our brain doesn't stop developing until mid-20s or even early 30s."
The findings are cause for concern for another reason, the scientists said. Energy drinks may interfere with the body's ability to heal from a TBI, LiveScience reports.
"Energy drinks, such as a Red Bull and Rockstar, contain high levels of caffeine and change the chemical state of the body, which can prevent people from getting back on track after a TBI, Cusimano said. "Brain injuries among adolescents are particularly concerning because their brains are still developing."
There's also the possibility that consuming energy drinks may increase a person's chances of experiencing another TBI, the researchers said.
It should be noted that the study found only an association between energy drinks and TBI; the researchers say they don't know which happened first, and cannot prove that drinking energy drinks increases the risks of TBI in teenagers.
It's also possible that people who drink these beverages have other underlying factors that predispose them to experiencing a TBI, the researchers said. Some of these young people, for instance, could have a personality type that leans towards taking risks, LiveScience reports. There's also the possibility that teens who have dealt with a TBI start consuming energy drinks as a way to cope with the effects of their injuries, the researchers say.
Prior research at St. Michael's Hospital showed that TBI is associated with poor academic performance, mental health issues, violence, substance abuse and aggression in teens and adults, all of which are factors that can interfere with rehabilitation, Cusimano said.
In response to the study, the Canadian Beverage Association issued a statement and noted it doesn't show a causal link between energy drinks and adverse health outcomes, CTV News reports.
"Energy drinks are non-alcoholic beverages which, in Canada, contain approximately half the caffeine of an equivalent-sized cup of drip coffee," the statement said.
The association also said it supports responsible marketing of its products, and said energy drinks are not to be promoted for being mixed with alcohol. Then it pointed to a risk assessment from the European Food Safety Authority, conducted earlier this year, that outlined daily caffeine amounts that are safe for teens, adults, and kids to consume.
The researchers say future studies are necessary in order to better understand the reason for the link between energy drink consumption and TBI, LiveScience notes, and to examine why teens are drinking these beverages.
Note: The study was funded by a Team Grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and by funds from the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, AUTO21 and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Neuroscience News reports.