Teenagers who overindulge in energy or sports drinks are likely to engage in additional less-than-healthy behaviors including smoking, consuming too many soft drinks or spending hours in playing video games, study indicates.
In a survey of around 2,800 teenagers in Minnesota, those saying they consumed at least one energy or sports drink every week were found to be spending more hours playing video games, consuming more sugar-rich beverages and reported taking up cigarette smoking, researchers from Duke University and the University of Minnesota reported.
Around 38 percent of the teens responding to the survey admitted they consumed at least one sports drink a week while about 15 percent reported consuming energy drinks at the same frequency.
Boys who were heavy consumers of energy drinks played video games four hours more per week than those who weren't, the researchers found.
Around 20 percent in the survey who frequently used energy drinks, both boys and girls, reported they smoked cigarettes, compare to around 8 percent of respondents who said they consumed such beverages less often.
Writing in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, the researchers characterized the findings as "troubling because they may indicate a clustering of problem behaviors among some adolescents."
While the researchers acknowledged they could not prove which came first, consumption of energy, sports drinks or the other behaviors, experts said the study demonstration of the behaviors are seen tracking together.
"Based on this study, we can't blame the sports and energy drinks at all," for the rising levels of some unhealthy behaviors, said Harvard Medical School professor Jason Block, who was not involved in the study. "It's just that adolescents who aren't focused on healthy behaviors are more likely to consume these beverages,"
Energy and sports drink consumption has increased three-fold in late years among adolescents while fruit drink and soft drink consumption has declined, the Duke and Minnesota researchers said. Teenagers' exposure to television advertising for such drinks from 2009 to 2010 increased 20 percent, they noted.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended adolescents should consume sports drinks only after prolonged and vigorous activity, and says energy drinks should be avoided as they provide no real benefit and create risks of overstimulating of the body's nervous system because they can contain large amounts of stimulants such as caffeine.