Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Energy Drink Consumption Is Associated with Unhealthy Dietary Behaviours among College Youth

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Energy Drink Consumption Is Associated with Unhealthy Dietary Behaviours among College Youth

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

College youth face many changes as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. Of the many changes that occur, previous research suggests that this period of transition from high school to college is associated with weight gain.1,2 Research suggests college youth do not meet national dietary recommendations and often have poor-quality diets3 because of lower consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and milk and a higher consumption of sweetened beverages, salty snacks, and fast food.4-6 For example, only 6%-29% of college youth report consuming five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day,2,7 even though current recommendations state that students should consume two to three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruits per day.8 One growing, yet understudied dietary behaviour that has been associated with other unhealthy behaviours, such as alcohol use, is the consumption of energy drinks.

An energy drink is a beverage that contains caffeine in combination with other ingredients such as sugar, amino acids, herbal extracts and B vitamins.9,10 While energy drinks are a relatively new product, the energy drink market has grown exponentially. For example, the energy drink market increased 240% between 2004 and 2008,11 yielding profits of US$26.9billion worldwide and US$7.9billion in the United States.9 This trend is expected to continue, as research has suggested that energy drink profits will continue to increase9 as the energy drink market growth rate is expected to be 13.4% annually between 2013 and 2018.12

The initial target consumer of energy drinks was the athlete, but has expanded to additional markets, including college youth.13 These consumers have been targeted due to the generation's fast paced lifestyle and susceptibility to marketing.13 Because of this, it is not surprising that previous research suggests between 34% and 51% of college students have consumed energy drinks in the past month.14-16 While previous research has shown positive effects of small doses of caffeine on attention, endurance and performance during cognitively demanding tasks,17 the increasing rates of consumption are concerning for a variety of reasons. First, these drinks contain large doses of caffeine that can range between 50 and 505 mg of caffeine per serving, and potentially provided more caffeine per drinking occasion as compared to sodas (35-50 mg caffeine/serving) and coffee (77-150 mg of caffeine/serving).10 Additionally, problematic side effects associated with greater energy drink consumption include caffeine intoxication/ dependence, tachycardia, hypertension and heart failure.10 Furthermore, associations with energy drinks include high-risk behaviours such as marijuana use, sexual risk-taking, fighting, alcohol consumption and intention to drive under the influence of alcohol.14,18 Finally, the sugar content of these beverages should be considered as it is often a primary ingredient,9 classifying it as a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) similar to beverages such as soda. While energy drinks are less studied in their relationship with weight gain and risk of metabolic syndrome or diabetes, consumption of other SSBs, such as soda, have been linked with each of these problematic outcomes.19,20

Little research has documented the relationship between energy drinks and dietary behaviour, yet it is possible that energy drink consumption may be related to other dietary behaviours. For example, one of the most commonly reported side effects of energy drinks are episodes of 'jolt and crash', or increases in energy state followed by a rapid decrease in energy state.15 Given these dramatic shifts in energy state, students may turn to calorically dense foods to maintain or return to the previously high energy state after experiencing one of these episodes. This may be problematic as relying on calorically dense foods has been associated with weight gain and obesity21 and may exacerbate already poor diet quality. …

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