Research supported by energy drink industry may be downplaying harms: doc
Published Friday, September 13, 2013 11:35AM EDT
How safe is it to mix energy drinks with alcohol? An Australian doctor is arguing there’s not enough good research to know the answer, since many of the studies already published on the matter have been funded by the energy drink companies themselves.
In an opinion piece in the British Medical Journal, Dr. Peter Miller, an associate professor of psychology at Deakin University in Australia, writes that many of the researchers who have offered reassuring conclusions about the effects of mixing alcohol and caffeine-laden drinks have been funded by Red Bull, a major producer of energy drinks.
“These researchers have presented their findings at special sessions on alcohol and energy drinks at international conferences where, because of limited disclosure requirements, audiences may not be aware of the extent of their industry sponsorship,” Miller writes.
He says that at last year’s Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Drugs conference, 80 per cent of the researchers had received financial support from Red Bull. All concluded there was no evidence that mixing energy drinks and alcohol increased the chances of harm.
“Only the independent presenters argued that more research is needed to assess the associations,” he said.
Miller believes conference organizers should require researchers to declare “whether they have received research funding or unrestricted grants, financial support to attend meetings or conferences,” because it is “critical that the public … be confident in the findings of research.”
Miller points out that it’s also difficult to conduct lab research on the safety of mixing the drinks, because ethical research guidelines restrict researchers from allowing study participants from getting too drunk or drinking large amounts of energy drinks.
He also writes that there have a number of epidemiological studies conducted of users of energy drinks who mix then with alcohol. Those studies have found such users are more likely to report drinking more alcohol; engaging in fights, becoming injured while drunk; driving while drunk; or engaging in risky sexual behaviour.
CTV’s medical commentator Dr. Marla Shapiro says there appears to be a perception among caffeine drink users that the drinks can “attenuate” the depressive effects of the alcohol. But she says that doesn’t appear to be accurate.
“The belief (of researchers) is that it’s exactly the opposite, that in a sense it makes you ‘wide-awake drunk’ and that the caffeine stimulates you and masks the intoxicating effects of the alcohol,” she told CTV’s Canada AM Friday.
“We know that those who combine these two are more likely to drink and more likely to get more intoxicated but not recognize the level of intoxication.”
She says getting clear answers on the safety of these drinks is important given that as many as 80 per cent of young people say they have tried mixing energy drinks with alcohol at least once.