Identifying ways to minimize the harm of energy drinks

By compiling qualitative data about energy drink intake, researchers can learn how to curb consumption, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior


Philadelphia, PA, October 5, 2017

Because many countries allow the sale of energy drinks to young people, identifying ways to minimize potential harm from energy drinks is critical. A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior provided unique insights into intervention strategies suggested by young people themselves to reduce consumption. In addition to more research and education, these strategies included policy changes targeting energy drink sales, packaging, price, and visibility.

Energy drinks, nonalcoholic beverages containing caffeine and other ingredients marketed as improving energy, concentration, metabolism, and performance, account for more than $30 billion in sales from over 160 countries. Energy drinks can cause adverse health effects such as headaches, nausea, sleep difficulties, seizures, anxiety, cardiac abnormalities, and sudden death, with data in the United States and Australia indicating caffeine overdoses and adverse reactions to energy drinks are prevalent and increasing in adolescents. Thus, researchers from Australia used group interviews to explore knowledge of energy drinks, factors influencing consumption, and intervention strategies to decrease energy drink consumption in young people.

“We found confusion surrounding energy drinks, which suggests educational campaigns are needed to increase young people's knowledge,” said lead author Jacinta Francis, PhD, of Telethon Kids Institute, Perth, Australia. “Likewise, interventions are needed to raise awareness about potential consequences of energy drinks and promote alternative ways to improve energy levels, such as good nutrition, physical activity, and adequate sleep.”

Interviews were conducted with 41 people, aged 12 to 25 years, with groups arranged so that all participants fell within a 5-year range. Participants were recruited based on a convenience sample of those in the Perth area, of the correct age, who spoke English. A discussion guide was constructed and eight group interviews lasting 30 to 50 minutes were conducted by the same facilitator.

Respondents were familiar with energy drinks, with some previously consuming them in large quantities. The precise definition of an energy drink was complex, however, with confusion across all age groups as to whether coffee, sports drinks, nutritional supplements, and soft drinks were included. Some participants were aware energy drinks contained caffeine and sugar, but few could name other ingredients or how they influenced energy; serving size also caused confusion.

Participants reported easy accessibility to energy drinks and consuming the beverages for the perceived increase in energy. After increased energy, taste was the second most common reason for drinking energy drinks, but taste also proved to be a deterrent.

An understanding of the ingredients and health effects was also a deterrent to consuming energy drinks. Some participants were unaffected by energy drinks, but many reported experiencing negative physiological effects or knew someone who had. Peer pressure and social norms also influenced adolescent consumption, as did parental beliefs and behaviors, particularly among the youngest participants. Participants noted that energy drink advertisements, promotions, and giveaways all encouraged consumption.

As a result of the group discussions, participants suggested five broad strategies to reduce young people's energy drink consumption: (1) restrictions on sale and availability, (2) changing packaging, (3) increasing the price, (4) reducing visibility in retail outlets, and (5) conducting research and education.

“From the five key interventions identified by participants, those relating to research and education may need to be targeted to specific age groups,” Francis added. “In addition, it would be helpful to implement and evaluate policies that regulate the marketing and promotion of energy drinks, as well as advocating for changes to warning labels and ingredients. Finally, implementing an adverse event reporting system, such as mandatory recording of hospital admissions related to energy drinks, may assist researchers and policy makers.”

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Notes for Editors
The article is “Informing Intervention Strategies to Reduce Energy Drink Consumption in Young People: Findings From Qualitative Research,” by Jacinta Francis, PhD; Karen Martin, PhD; Beth Costa, PhD; Hayley Christian, PhD; Simmi Kaur, BPhm; Amelia Harray, BSc, RD; Ann Barblett, BPE; Wendy Hazel Oddy, PhD, RPHNutr; Gina Ambrosini, PhD; Karina Allen, PhD, LCP; Gina Trapp, PhD, RPHNutr (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2017.06.007). It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, volume 49, issue 9 (October 2017) published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732-238-3628 or jnebmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Tamara Hunter, Senior Communications Officer, Telethon Kids Institute, at +61 8 9489 7668 or +61 459 859 126 or tamara.hunter@telethonkids.org.au.

An audio podcast featuring an interview with Dr Jacinta Francis is located at www.jneb.org/content/podcast. Excerpts from the podcast may be reproduced by the media; contact Eileen Leahy to obtain permission.

About the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications. www.jneb.org

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a global information analytics business that helps institutions and professionals progress science, advance healthcare and improve performance for the benefit of humanity. Elsevier provides digital solutions and tools in the areas of strategic research management, R&D performance, clinical decision support, and professional education; including ScienceDirect, Scopus, SciVal, ClinicalKey and Sherpath. Elsevier publishes over 2,500 digitized journals, including The Lancet and Cell, more than 35,000 e-book titles and many iconic reference works, including Gray's Anatomy. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a global provider of information and analytics for professionals and business customers across industries. www.elsevier.com

Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
+1 732-238-3628
jnebmedia@elsevier.com