If your teen consumes energy drinks as a way to stay ahead or gain some extra energy, they may be causing more harm than good.
Recently, a study looked into the effects of caffeinated energy drinks on Korean adolescents. Researchers investigated the association of an intake of energy drinks with mental health problems in teenagers, along with the effects of the drinks in combination with junk food consumption.
Energy drinks have two main ingredients: caffeine and sugar. When combined, the two can have disruptive effects to the body regardless of age, the study said.
“Caffeine is most widely known as central nervous system stimulant, which activates noradrenaline and serotonin neurons,” the study said. “Caffeinated energy drinks may also cause activation of methylxanthine, which [be] may related to psychological condition including memory, anxiety, or sleep, even though these effects seem to vary.”
Excess sugar is believed to be linked to low serotonin levels and low brain function, the authors said. High caffeine intakes are known to keep people awake, but it can also lead to difficulty sleeping, behavioral problems, low academic achievement and in some cases, violence. The study’s findings suggested the issues behind energy drink intake to be highly detrimental.
“Energy drink intake was significantly associated with sleep dissatisfaction, severe stress, depressive mood, suicidal ideation, suicide plan and suicide attempt, with a higher risk for more frequent use of energy drinks than for less frequent use,” the authors stated in their results. “The detrimental effect of energy drinks on mental health was particularly prominent in frequent junk food consumers.”
Adolescents who drank energy drinks for five days or more weekly were at the highest risk for health issues suggested by the study. Furthermore, the energy drink and junk food combo hurts students who are looking to get ahead more than those drinking energy drinks alone. The researchers cited several studies to support their claim, including a study that suggested an increase of junk food in the diet is linked to hyperactivity in children.
The study focused on Korean teenagers, partly because the country’s teens were reported to study longer and sleep less than other students in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. Korean students studied an average of seven hours per day, while Japanese, American and English students only studied for about five and a half, five and four hours, respectively. Energy drinks also weren’t even widely available in Korea until 2010, making the effects of the drinks even more noticeable.
Information from the 2015 Korean Youth Risk Behavior Web-Based survey was taken for the study. More than 70,000 adolescents ages 12 to 18 years old participated in the survey and their answers were analyzed by the researchers. Adolescents were then given questionnaires that asked questions about their dietary habits, physical activities, gender, age and school types.
“Study findings indicate that adolescents who consume energy drinks regularly are at great risk of mental health problems, particularly when in combination with junk food consumption,” the study said in conclusion. “Furthermore, the risk of mental health problems was significantly different between highly frequent and moderately frequent consumers. Therefore, the amount of energy drink intake should be carefully monitored, and an educational intervention on the negative effects of energy drinks is needed for adolescents who consume energy drinks regularly.”