Energy drink consumption has been associated with physical and mental health problems, and yet is increasing worldwide – especially among young adults who account for about two-thirds of the market. While consuming the occasional energy drink is not problematic, some individuals may consume several every day, leading to the development of intolerance and serious withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. ARC-funded researchers have looked at ways to reduce or combat such problematic over consumption of energy drinks.
Through an ARC Discovery Project, Psychologist Professor Eva Kemps and her research team at Flinders University have used cognitive bias retraining – a form of computer-based training aimed at reducing decision-making biases in consuming energy drinks – to test the effect on the decision making of regular consumers of energy drinks.
More than 200 participants aged between 18 and 25 underwent a cognitive bias modification protocol aimed at reducing energy drink consumption by either decreasing the extent to which energy drink cans capture the attention of regular energy drink consumers (attentional bias) or reducing the tendency for these consumers to approach energy drinks (approach bias).
‘By giving participants some simple techniques, we examined whether they were able to moderate their bias toward choosing energy drinks over soft drinks and more healthy options, and perhaps reduce consumption before they become addicted,’ says Professor Kemps.
There is some evidence that a reduction in bias can produce a corresponding reduction in consumption in terms of lower intake. However, so far neither attentional nor approach bias modification has been shown to translate into a significantly reduced energy drink intake.
Professor Kemps says that these trial methods will now be expanded to examine how to combat the attentional and approach biases of consumers towards energy drinks.
Side-effects of excessive intake of the high caffeine drinks, with other stimulants taurine, guarana and ginseng, can lead to a range of negative physical and mental health consequences, including anxiety, depression, or even stress, PTSD and substance abuse.