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Canadian Study Links Teen Consumption of Energy Drinks and Traumatic Brain Injuries

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Vancouver, BCA 2015 study by researchers in Canada suggests a link between teen consumption of energy drinks and a risk of traumatic brain injury. Previous studies have suggested a link between the use of energy drinks and a risk of heart problems. Energy drink lawsuits have been filed in the United States alleging consumers who ingested energy drinks - including Monster Energy drinks - suffered serious heart complications as a result.

The Canadian study was conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and involved 10,000 students between the ages of 11 and 20 who completed a self-administered survey. For the purposes of the survey, a traumatic brain injury was defined as an injury that either involved losing consciousness for at least five minutes or being put in the hospital for at least one night. Results were published in PLOS ONE (9/16/17).

Researchers found that teens who reported suffering a traumatic brain injury in the past year were also seven times more likely to have consumed a minimum of five energy drinks in the week before taking the study than those teens who did not have a history of traumatic brain injury. Furthermore, those who reported a traumatic brain injury in the past year were at least two times more likely to have mixed energy drinks with alcohol than those who suffered their brain injury more than a year prior to completing the survey. And, those who reported a traumatic brain injury linked to playing sports were two times more likely to consume energy drinks than those who suffered a brain injury from other causes.

One of the study’s authors, Dr. Michael Cusimano from St. Michael’s Hospital, noted that consumption of energy drinks could hinder a teen’s recovery from traumatic brain injury. This is particularly concerning because teens’ brains are not fully developed.

The study suggests that energy drink consumption in teens and traumatic brain injuries are linked, but it does not suggest a causal relationship. In other words, it does not show that drinking energy drinks causes traumatic brain injuries, just that students who had a brain injury were also more likely to have recently consumed energy drinks. The study also does not show a sequence between sustaining a traumatic brain injury and ingesting an energy drink combined with alcohol.

“The consumption of energy drinks and alcohol, either singly or in combination, may represent a coping mechanism to deal with the effects of TBI, or predisposing factors for adolescent TBI, or all may result from common underlying causes such as increased propensity for risk taking,” researchers note.

The authors recommend more research to determine whether consumption of energy drinks contributes to traumatic brain injuries.

Lawsuits have been filed in the United States alleging consumers died of cardiac problems after ingesting energy drinks. Some of those lawsuits have been settled for undisclosed amounts.

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