Mixing Energy Drinks With Alcohol May Put You At Risk

By Beth Leipholtz 08/22/18

A new study investigated how the main ingredient in energy drinks affected behavior. 

energy drinks in a grocery store aisle

Red Bull, according to the company itself, does not have any dangerous effects when mixed with alcohol. However, a new study indicates that this may not be the case—at least not with zebrafish.

According to Esquire, researchers from the University of Portsmouth and the Federal University of Santa Maria in Brazil took a common energy drink ingredient called taurine, mixed it with alcohol and tested it with zebrafish. 

The zebrafish that were given the combination were then compared to zebrafish that had been exposed to water, taurine or alcohol separately. The fish, Esquire reports, were then observed to see how they interacted with one another and how they responded to potential threats. 

Researchers found that the fish that had been exposed to alcohol and taurine combined were less likely to socialize with the other fish and were more likely to engage in risky behavior, like spending time in what researchers referred to as a “predator zone.”

"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,” said Dr. Matt Parker, study co-author and senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, according to Science Daily. “People should be aware that drinking energy drinks in combination with alcohol may impair their judgement, and should do so with caution.”

Parker also stated that this particular study was the first of its kind to indicate that mixing alcohol and energy drinks can increase the risk of behaviors like fighting and violence.

"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,” Parker told Science Daily. “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 behavioural responses to alcohol, and are a highly social species, making them ideal for studying the effects of alcohol on behavior.”

While the results of this study seem to imply that the combination of alcohol and taurine can lead to risky behavior, it’s important to note that the study was done on fish, not humans. 

Meanwhile, Red Bull maintains that there are no side effects of drinking the beverage with alcohol.

"There is no indication that Red Bull Energy Drink has any specific effect (negative or positive) related to alcohol consumption,” the company's website reads. Red Bull also states that this claim is backed up by a 2012 decision from the UK Committee on Toxicity. 

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.