Red Bull and vodka has become a common mixed cocktail combo. However, a new study shows that alcohol mixed with energy drinks, like Red Bull, can make people drink more and possibly binge-drink.
The recent Australian study, published in the August online edition of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, focused on young adults. The finding indicates that combining energy drinks and booze creates a higher risk for them to engage in excessive and even binge drinking. However, the researchers emphasize they are not sure whether it is the caffeine or other sugary additives that make the combo more appealing than consuming only alcohol, noted the study’s lead author, Rebecca McKetin, from the Australian National University’s Center for Research on Aging, Health and Well-being in Canberra.
McKetin points out one possible theory in that alcohol is a depressant, but it also acts as a stimulant. The researcher suggested that the caffeine, also a stimulant, enhances alcohol’s stimulant effects and that increases someone’s desire to drink more.
In the double-blind study, 75 men and women in Australia aged 18 to 30 years, who did not have alcohol or drug dependencies, were assigned to either an alcohol only or alcohol and energy drink grouping. About half had cocktails containing Smirnoff vodka, a pineapple-coconut fruit drink and a Red Bull Silver Edition energy drink. The other half was served cocktails that contained the vodka, fruit drink and soda water. About 20 minutes after finishing their drinks, each participant was asked if they liked the cocktail, how they felt and how strongly they wanted to continue drinking.
Both study groups felt about the same stimulation or buzz from the vodka. However, those people who drank the energy drinks mixed with alcohol combo liked their cocktail more and were more likely to want more to drink. One theory on the reason here is that the sugary energy drink cocktails may taste better and the sweetness created the desire to have more.
The energy drink cocktail consumers also had a lower breath alcohol concentration (BAC) on average than those who drank the regular vodka cocktail. The researchers theorize that the lower breach alcohol levels may be a result of the energy drinks’ sweetening additives like taurine and inositol. These additives, along with the larger concentration of carbohydrates found in energy drinks, may affect the way the body metabolizes alcohol results in the lower BAC levels.
The researchers note that the study does not assume that the urge reported by the Red Bull cocktail group to keep drinking actually means they will keep drinking. They merely acknowledge that the urge could lead to drinking more when they might have otherwise stopped. The study did not track how much the participants drank as well, just what they drink and if they wanted more. So, clearly a more detailed study is needed to delve deeper into the affects.
Public health advocates have expressed concern about the popularity of consuming alcohol with energy drinks, particularly among young adults. Reportedly, 34 to 51 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds regularly consumes these combo cocktails.
Energy drinks are consumed by more than one-third of Americans 18 to 24 years old, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has estimated that alcohol mixed with energy drinks could triple the risk for binge-drinking compared to those who do not imbibe the combo cocktails, and the Australian study, albeit limited, shows the combo made people want to drink more.
By Dyanne Weiss