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Health researchers have identified a surprising new predictor for risky behavior among teenagers and young adults: the energy drink.
Super-caffeinated energy drinks, with names like Red Bull, Monster, Full Throttle and Amp, have surged in popularity in the past decade. About a third of 12-to 24-year-olds say they regularly down energy drinks, which account for more than $3 billion in annual sales in the United States.
The trend has been the source of growing concern among health researchers and school officials. Around the country, the drinks have been linked with reports of nausea, abnormal heart rhythms and emergency room visits.
In Colorado Springs, several high school students last year became ill after drinking Spike Shooter, a high-caffeine drink, prompting the principal to ban the beverages. In March, four middle school students in Broward County, Fla., went to the emergency room with heart palpitations and sweating after drinking the energy beverage Redline. In Tigard, Ore., teachers this month sent parents e-mail alerting them that students who brought energy drinks to school were literally drunk on a caffeine buzz or falling off a caffeine crash.
New research suggests the drinks are associated with a health issue far more worrisome than the jittery effects of caffeine risk taking.
Toxic jock behavior
In March, The Journal of American College Health published a report on the link between energy drinks, athletics and risky behavior. The studys author, Kathleen Miller, an addiction researcher at the University of Buffalo, says it suggests that high consumption of energy drinks is associated with toxic jock behavior, a constellation of risky and aggressive behaviors including unprotected sex, substance abuse and violence.
The finding doesnt mean the drinks cause bad behavior. But the data suggest that regular consumption of energy drinks may be a red flag for parents that their children are more likely to take risks with their health and safety.