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Mixing energy drinks and alcohol increases ‘risky behaviours’

A key ingredient in many energy drinks could exacerbate some of the negative effects of binge drinking when mixed with alcohol, a scientific study has discovered.

Researchers claim that mixing energy drinks and alcohol may increase the negative affects of binge drinking

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth and the Federal University of Santa Maria found the ingredient – called taurine – increased the “fear-reducing properties of alcohol” and affected social communication when tested on zebrafish.

The study looked at how taurine and alcohol affected the behaviour of 192 zebrafish at volumes that would induce moderate intoxication in humans.

“Zebrafish have similar biological and behavioural responses to alcohol, and are a highly social species, making them ideal for studying the effects of alcohol on behaviour,” said Dr Matt Parker, senior lecturer in behavioural pharmacological and molecular neuroscience at the University of Portsmouth.

The fish were divided into four-strong shoals and were exposed to either just water, taurine and alcohol separately, or taurine and alcohol together for one hour.

Their behaviour, including fear of predators, was then examined at different time intervals.

The fish that were exposed to both alcohol and taurine exemplified more “risky behaviours” and spent more time in the predator zone than other groups. They also experienced fewer interactions with fish in other shoals.

“The effects of mixing alcohol and energy drinks is yet to be established,” said Dr Parker. “This study is the first to show that the two together may be exacerbating some of the negative effects of binge drinking; that is reduction of fear and problems in social communication while intoxicated, which collectively increase the risk of fighting, violence and participation in risky behaviours.

“People should be aware that drinking energy drinks in combination with alcohol may impair their judgement, and should do so with caution.”

The study has been published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

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