Jan 23, 2019

Risks of TBI Higher for Energy Drinkers?

TBIs are More Common Than You Think.

Things you think you take for your benefit can sometimes turn out to be things that are not so great for your health. It won't be easy to accept the facts when you have become used to eating or drinking something. Who would have thought that energy drinks would become connected to traumatic brain injuries?

An energy drink is a beverage that contains stimulants and other compounds, like caffeine, guarana, and other ingredients like sugar.  Energy drinks are marketed as if they provide mental and physical invigoration "energy", which is not the same energy you would get from healthy foods.

Michael Ehline has a lot of experience with energy drinks. As a U.S. Marine, he was faced with falling asleep on guard duty and the brig or gulping down large amounts of legal stimulants, such as guarana, caffeine, etc.

"When I visited my girlfriend who lived in Brea, California, and had to drive back to Camp Pendleton for fire watch, I used copious amounts of energy drinks to stay awake." Ehline said he felt like an F-1 racecar driver, risking speeding tickets just so he could win the prize of seeing his girlfriend over a hundred miles north in Orange County, California.

But Ehline says:

"Looking back, I now realize that all these stimulants, coupled with my youthful invincibility as a Marine Lance Corporal, could have gotten me killed by heart palpitations, brain aneurism, or death by speeding."

Youth and taking risks, that is what Ehline had in common with modern kids. And the recent study linking these drinks to brain issues has come off as a massive shock for drinkers of energy drinks and companies that make them. But the case is not that severe right now in the news, or with stores selling these beverages.

Studies paid for by the beverage industry and those by energy drink opponents remain in conflict. So presently the connection seems feeble and indirect. Also, the likelihood of people with traumatic brain injuries downing energy drinks was reported to be much higher when compared to that in people with no brain injury.

  • People With Brain Injuries Love Energy Drinks?

It appears this is true. We all know Marines, SEALS, and soldiers love their Red Bull, and we know they have been blown up a lot due to roadside bombs, so it makes sense they would continue drinking these addictive beverages. Of special interest, energy drink usage was seven times greater in people with traumatic brain injury in the most recent studies.

And this statistic is quite a significant number since teenaged kids were the focus of the study. Again, it makes sense, as the average Marine is a teenager upon enlistment. In the study, it was found out that teens with brain injury had had at least five energy drinks in just one week. This particular study got published in the prestigious journal that goes by the name of PLOS One.

The first study taken into consideration was in 2013. And in that particular study, there were a little more than 10,000 students as part of the survey. The students that participated in 2013 were from grades 7 to 12.

High Likelihood of Brain Injury When Overdosing on these Drinks?

The chances of teen head injury victims consuming energy drinks in the past year were two times higher than a kid with no head injuries. Furthermore, it was observed that these teens did not take only energy drinks but had resorted to a mixture of energy drinks with alcohol. Researchers conducted the same study for students involved in some sport.

These students showed a double-figure on the likelihood of having energy drinks in the past year. Also, their double-figures were in comparison to other students who had also received traumatic brain injuries, but because of scuffles, fights, and other accidents.

Gabriela Ilie works at St. Michael’s Hospital and takes care of the Division of Neurosurgery and Injury Prevention Research Office, authored this study. She stated that sports came out as a common factor when the study took traumatic brain injuries and energy drinks into consideration.

Gabriela pointed out an important aspect referring to the marketing campaigns that often conducted by the makers of the energy drinks. Also, she thinks that sports often drive these campaigns. And she says they are often sponsoring sports events as well. What this means is that energy drinks attract teens to play games, and their association with sports makes teens drink more.

Gabriela pointed out that the use of energy drinks and alcohol in teens is not automatic. And she also discussed research that showed drinking coffee could prohibit feeling alcohol use. She also pointed out the fact that teens taking energy drinks as a mixture with alcohol are causing massive damage to their health.

Double Danger of Mixing Booze With Redbull?

The effects of energy drinks might not be significant on their bodies. But when they combine energy drinks with alcohol, the effects are formidable to their brains. She even said that the results of combining alcohol with energy drinks are not just physical but also emotional in nature. Gabriela also brought our attention to the fact that the brains of people are still in the development stage between 20 and 30 years of age.

Gabriela clarified no easy way exists to clearly draw a connection between traumatic brain injuries and energy drinks. She said that to have a definite conclusion on the matter, we need to perform more experiments and studies.

Brain Injury Healing Is Hindered With Energy Drinks?

Studies suggest that energy drink consumption may interfere with TBI recovery efforts, and may even cause brain damage. In once case, teens suffering a traumatic brain injury in the last year were shown to be at a seven-time greater risk for brain injury complications in certain situations. For example, if they drank five or more energy drinks in the last 7 days, they were at a greater risk than those without a history of TBI.

Dr. Cusimano said energy drink consumption could interfere with recovery efforts for teens who have sustained a TBI. "Energy drinks, such 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," said Dr. Cusimano. "Brain injuries among adolescents are particularly concerning because their brains are still developing." (Source).

More Research is Key.

Most of all, we must know more about the effects of energy drinks on the brain. After all, little information is available. According to the recent surveys, 50% of the teens prefer an energy drink over a cola or soda drink.

The Alarming Trend.

The trend of having energy drinks in the young generation is quite high in the US. And this is why it is expected the energy drink industry will have a massive boost in the coming times. According to an estimate, within five years, the energy drink making companies will earn roughly $27 billion every year. So by the end of five years, the market for energy drinks would have grown by 11% quickly. But this trend was only one side of the story. On the one hand, experts say these drinks are bad for kids, and on the other hand, we have people representing the beverage industry saying it's all good.

Energy Drink Industry-Funded Studies Disagree.

One group called the American Beverage Association have commented on the issue. The officials from the association resist drawing a connection between traumatic brain surgeries and energy drinks. They also said no indication exists within the study conducted showing the harmful effects of energy drinks per se.

During the comments, they also quoted the EFSA. ("European Food Safety Authority"). They said that this authority has conducted and declared these drinks entirely safe. They even said that their drinks contain much less caffeine than a cup of coffee. Even the American Bar Association ("ABA") has taken a stand against providing kids with these beverages.

Beverages Meet Standards.

The officials from the association also said that beverage companies take all the measures they can to ensure that their ingredients and drinks meet the standards set by the federal bodies. There are other points of view. Gabriela is of the opinion that the effects are both positive and adverse. It would likely be wrong to say these drinks cause any ill effects on people’s health yet. But equal responsibility remains with these companies not to associate these drinks with sports.