Teenagers who consume energy drinks are much more likely to sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBI), new research suggests.
"We have found a link between increased brain injuries and the consumption of energy drinks or energy drinks mixed with alcohol," said Michael Cusimano, neurosurgeon at St. Michael's Hospital in Ontario in Canada.
Teenagers who reported a traumatic brain injury in the past year were seven times more likely to have consumed a lots of energy drinks than those without a history of serious brain injury, the findings showed.
The researchers also found that teenagers who reported sustaining a TBI within the past year were at least twice as likely to have consumed energy drinks mixed with alcohol than those who reported sustaining a TBI more than a year ago.
"It is particularly concerning to see that teens who report a recent TBI are also twice as likely to report consuming energy drinks mixed with alcohol," Robert Mann, senior scientist at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.
For the study, researchers analysed information from a survey of more than 10,000 students ages 11 to 20 in Ontario in 2013.
However, the researchers do not know whether energy drink consumption leads to brain injuries or it is the other way around.
It is possible that people who consume energy drinks also have other underlying factors that predispose them to experiencing a TBI, the researchers said.
For example, these individuals could have a personality type that tends to take risks, Live Science reported.
"While we cannot say this link is causal, it is a behaviour that could cause further injury and so we should be looking at this relationship closely in future research," Mann noted.
The study also cautioned that 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," Cusimano said.
The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.