Teens who drink a lot of sports and energy drinks engage in more "undesirable behaviors," according to a shocking new study.
It's kind of a chicken-or-egg question, though: Does drinking Red Bull and Monster make adolescents act like punks, or are young douchebags-in-the-making the type who enjoy such beverages in the first place?
Duke University and University of Minnesota researchers argue that it's the former. They say that regular consumption of sports and energy drinks by adolescents causes them to ingest more sugary drinks than other kids, smoke more cigarettes and watch more TV and "other screen devices." Their findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. The researchers base their findings on data collected from 2,793 adolescents from 20 public middle and high schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. area from 2009 to 2010.
They recorded such details as the teens' weight and height, along with the frequency of their consumption of sports and energy drinks. The study also asked how often they ate breakfast, how much physical activity they got each day and how much time they spent playing video games.
The researchers found a parallel between such bad behavior as smoking cigarettes, consumption of other sugary drinks (such as soda) and playing video games.
According to the study data, about 38 percent of the adolescents surveyed consume sports drinks at least once a week. Fifteen percent said they consumed energy drinks at least once a week. The males who consumed energy drinks at least once a week spent about four more hours per week playing video games, compared to those who consumed energy drinks less often.
About 20 percent of both males and females who frequently consumed energy drinks said they had smoked cigarettes, compared to about 8 percent of those adolescents who consumed energy drinks less often. Teens who consumed sports and energy drinks at least once a week also drank more servings of sugar-sweetened beverages and were more likely to have ever smoked cigarettes, compared to those teens who consumed sports and energy drinks less than once a week.
"Among boys, weekly sports drink consumption was significantly associated with higher TV viewing," Nicole Larson of the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study, told Medical News Today. "Boys who regularly consumed sports drinks spent about one additional hour per week watching TV, compared with boys who consumed sports drinks less than once per week. Boys who consumed energy drinks at least weekly spent approximately four additional hours per week playing video games, compared with those who consumed energy drinks less than once per week."
Overall, the more adolescents consumed sports and energy drinks, the more they smoked cigarettes, the more they consumed other sugary drinks and the more they played video games - all considered "undesirable activities."
(One wonders what other types of bad behaviors these young gentlemen engage in. The mind boggles.)
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), sports drinks "should only be consumed by adolescents after vigorous and prolonged physical activity."
Tthe AAP says that energy drinks "should not be consumed [at all by adolescents] as they offer no health benefits and increase risks for overstimulation of the nervous system."
In the study, teens' sports drink consumption was linked with higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week, and with a higher percentage of participation in sports. However, "it is unlikely that consumption only followed vigorous, prolonged activity," the researchers said.
"Water should instead be promoted as the best option for hydration following physical activity," Larson added.
The researchers called their findings "troubling because they may indicate a clustering of problem behaviors among some adolescents."
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Larson told LiveScience.com: "It is critical that adolescents and their parents are educated about the potential consequences associated with consuming sports and energy drinks, and that targeted advertising does not continue to encourage them to purchase these beverages," noting that teens' exposure to TV advertising for energy drinks increased 20 percent between 2009 and 2010.
In fairness, recall that this study involves teens living in Minnesota. What the hell else are kids supposed to do in the Midwest - hang out eating lutefisk and quilting while listening to Garrison Keillor?