Young teens who spend more time with TV and electronic devices drink more sugared or caffeinated drinks than their peers, indicates a a study of U.S. teens led by researchers from McMaster University. The results are concerning because many of these teenagers exceed recommended levels of both sugar and caffeine.
“There is a trend towards reduced energy drink and soda consumption between 2013 and 2016 which is our latest data, but greater electronic device use, particularly TV, is linked to more consumption of added sugar and caffeine among adolescents. Addressing this through counseling or health promotion could potentially help,”
said pediatrician Dr. Katherine Morrison, who led the research together with colleagues at McMaster and California State University – Fullerton.
Excess caffeine, as found in energy drinks, is associated with headaches, higher blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and chest pain as well as poor sleep. Consequently, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society urge physicians to educate youth and families about the risks, and to recommend against these drinks.
The study found that more than 27 per cent of teens exceed recommended sugar intake and 21 per cent exceed recommended caffeine from soda and energy drinks. Males consumed more sodas and energy drinks than females, and youth in Grade 8 consumed more than those in Grade 10.
However, using a computer for school was linked to a lower likelihood of exceeding sugar consumption cut-offs.
Distracted eating has been found to be linked to adults watching TV alone, so the research team looked at information on 32,418 students in Grades 8 and 10 from a national, repeated U.S. study called Monitoring the Future Survey.
Video Gaming Not A Factor
The researchers found that despite the trend towards total reduced soda and energy drink intake between 2013 and 2016, it was evident that greater use of electronic devices, particularly TV, was linked to higher consumption of both.
An additional hour per day of TV was linked to a 32 per cent higher risk of exceeding World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for sugar. Each hour more per day of TV was also linked to a 28 per cent increased risk of exceeding WHO caffeine recommendations.
Each hour per day of talking on a mobile phone or using social media was also associated with increased risk of exceeding both added sugar and caffeine recommendations.
The researchers were surprised to find video game use was only weakly linked to more caffeine consumption.
“Given the marketing campaigns that target video gamers, we expected a particularly strong association between caffeine intake from energy drinks or sodas with video game use, but TV was linked more strongly,”
 Kelly M. Bradbury, Ofir Turel, Katherine M. Morrison. Electronic device use and beverage related sugar and caffeine intake in US adolescents. PLoS ONE 14(10): e0223912. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0223912