Energy-drink consumption in college students and associated factors
Journal Title (Medline/Pubmed accepted abbreviation): Nutrition
Year: 2010 Epub ahead of print
Page numbers:
doi: 10.1016/J.Nut.2010.02.008

Summary of Background and Research Design

Background:Energy drinks improve attention and/or reaction times during extended periods of cognitive demand. Ingredients of energy drinks, particularly sucrose and caffeine, have unwanted health consequences and can boost heart rate and blood pressure, possibly dehydrate the body, aggravate the effects of other stimulants, and prevent sleep.

Hypothesis: University students consume energy drinks but are largely unaware of the potential health hazards of these drinks.

Subjects: Healthy college student volunteers (N = 439) with a mean age of 22.8 years

Experimental design:Cross-sectional study

Treatments and protocol:Data were collected via a self-administered, standard, pretested questionnaire consisting of 35 questions relating to students' sociodemographic characteristics, personal habits, total fluid intake, energy-drink-related knowledge, and habits. An exploratory analysis was performed to model significant predictors of energy-drink consumption. A backward elimination logistic regression modeling technique was used to reach the most parsimonious yet statistically significant model.

Summary of research findings:
  • Among university students questioned, 45.1% used to have regular sleep patterns, with an average period of 7.23 ± 1.31 hours/day. Of all students 26.9% were current smokers: average pack-years of cigarette smoking were 2.25 ± 1.74 in ever-smokers and 3.94 ± 2.86 in current smokers. Thirty-six percent reported never using alcohol and, of the drinkers, > 75% reported that they drink alcohol less than once a month.
  • The most commonly preferred drink was water and almost half of study participants reported that they drink >= 5 glasses of water/day. Just under one half (48.3%) had ever tried an energy drink.
  • The most common reason to try an energy drink was “curiosity of its taste/effects” (48.3%), followed in order of frequency by “for energy” and “to boost performance.”
    • One third of students who had never tried an energy drink reported no specific reason.
    • 36.1% reported that they did not wonder about its taste and 19.4% had not tried an energy drink before because they considered such drinks “unhealthy.”
    • 60% of students first used these drinks during their college years, with the most common places for a first try being “home,” “recreational areas,” and “bars.”
  • One third of the students reported that media messages were the major source of information on energy drinks. One of every 5 students reported that they learned about energy drinks from their friends/peers.
  • Controlling for age, men and alcohol users were 1.5- and 2.5-times more likely than women or nonalcohol users, respectively, to use energy drinks.
  • Most participants reported that they prefer energy drinks to feel “energetic,” to concentrate while studying, and/or to stay awake. Similarly, < 2% of all participants (and ever users of energy drinks alike) mentioned obesity as an effect of energy-drink consumption.
  • One third of all participants and a little more than half of “ever” drinkers of energy drinks reported that they “knew” the ingredients of energy drinks. However, the most commonly reported ingredients are sugar and caffeine, and most students did not correctly mark the other ingredients given in multiple choice questions.
  • A total of 15.2% of current energy drink users reported that they mixed energy drinks with alcohol, although 37.2% of students who had ever used an energy drink reported having mixed the energy drink with alcohol.
  • In multivariable analyses, consumption of alcohol mixed with energy drinks was significantly associated with increased heavy episodic drinking and twice as many episodes of weekly drunkenness

Interpretation of findings/Key practice applications:

The use of energy drinks is quite common among college students, but their knowledge of ingredients and potential health hazards of such drinks is very limited. Mixing energy drinks with alcohol was common and was associated with more frequent alcohol consumption. Energy drinks are known to contain caffeine and in amounts that may cause a variety of adverse health effects including insomnia, nervousness, headache, tachycardia, and seizures. Public education on the potential health hazards of such drinks is needed.
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