A new study by the University of Portsmouth in collaboration with the Federal University of Santa Maria in Brazil, suggests that a key ingredient of energy drinks could be exacerbating some of the negative effects of binge drinking. It suggests the fusion of energy drinks with alcohol can change our behavior for the worse.
Scientists tested the effect in zebrafish. They found that the taurine, the main ingredient of energy drinks seemed to increase the fear-reducing properties of alcohol. It also affected social communication.
Scientists tested how this fusion affected the behavior of 192 zebrafish. The fish were divided into shoals (with four fish per shoal) and were exposed to either just water, taurine, and alcohol separately or taurine and alcohol for one hour.
Their shoaling behaviors were then analyzed at different time intervals at 0-5 minutes, 30-35 minutes and 55-60 minutes. The fish were also tested for their fear-like responses to a predator by dividing the tank into four areas, with the furthest area used to mimic a predator fish.
The fish that were presented to both alcohol and taurine had fewer associations with other fish in the shoal contrasted with those presented to water alone or just liquor. These fish likewise indicated more ‘dangerous’ conduct, investing more energy in the predator zone than other groups.
Co-author of the study Dr Matt Parker, Senior Lecturer in Behavioural Pharmacology and Molecular Neuroscience at the University of Portsmouth, said: “The effects of mixing alcohol and energy drinks is yet to be established. This study is the first to show that the two together may be exacerbating some of the negative effects of binge drinking; that is a reduction of fear and problems in social communication while intoxicated, which collectively increase the risk of fighting, violence, and participation in risky behaviors.”
“Binge drinking and general alcohol misuse is a key problem in the UK and across the world, with the numbers of hospital admissions resulting from illness or injury following intoxication costing the NHS millions per year.”
“Alcohol reduces our inhibitions, and in low doses can cause relaxation and euphoria. However, in higher doses, this low inhibition can cause problems with fighting or risky behavior. Zebrafish have similar biological and behavioral responses to alcohol and are a highly social species, making them ideal for studying the effects of alcohol on behavior.”
“Here, we found that the addition of taurine, an ingredient in many ‘energy’ drinks, appears to exacerbate risky choices in zebrafish, as well as reducing their social cohesion. Taken together, these data appear to suggest that mixing alcohol and taurine might be a factor in increasing some of the negative effects of alcohol. People should be aware that drinking energy drinks in combination with alcohol may impair their judgment, and should do so with caution.”
The study is published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.