Associations between energy drink consumption and dietary behaviors among emerging adults
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The energy drink market increased 240% between the years 2004 and 2008 and is expected to continue to grow. Growth of this market is concerning because energy drink consumption has been associated with a variety of health risk behaviors including increased marijuana use, sexual risk-taking, fighting, alcohol consumption, but little research has explored the relationship between energy drinks and dietary behaviors of emerging adults. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between energy drink consumption and diet among a sample of emerging adults. Participants included 585 undergraduate students from a large, public US university (m age=18.7; 47% non-Hispanic White, 20.9% Hispanic, 25.5% Asian, 2.7% non-Hispanic Black, and 4.4% other; 56% Female). Using an online survey, students self-reported energy drink consumption and dietary behaviors. Past week and past month energy drink consumption was measured with single items asking the number of times and the number of days the student consumed an energy drink, respectively. Dietary behaviors measured included soda, diet soda, milk, sweet snacks, salty snacks, fruits, vegetables, breakfast, frozen food meals, fast food meals, and restaurant meals consumption in a usual week. Summing responses to items including weekly consumption of milk, fruits, vegetables, and breakfast created a healthy eating index. Similarly, summing responses on items including weekly consumption of soda, diet soda, sweet snacks, salty snacks, frozen food, fast food, and restaurant food created an unhealthy eating index. Linear regression analyses were run to determine the associations between energy drink consumption and the individual dietary behaviors as well as the healthy and unhealthy eating indices. All analyses controlled for gender, race/ethnicity, and body mass index (BMI). Additional models were run with gender as a moderator to determine if the associations between energy drink consumption and dietary behaviors differed by gender. Overall, 17.5% of students consumed energy drinks at least one time in the past week (12.6% male, 5.0% female), and 38.1% consumed energy drinks on at least one day in the past month (22.7% male, 15.4% female). Increased past month energy drink consumption was associated with a higher score on the unhealthy eating scale (B=0.25 (SE =0.13), p=0.001), soda consumption (B=0.11 (SE =0.05), p=<0.001), and diet soda consumption (B=0.07 (SE =0.04), p=0.007), and a lower score on the healthy eating scale (B=-0.27 (SE=0.17), p<0.05). Increased past week energy drink consumption was associated with a higher score on the unhealthy eating score (B=0.80 (SE =0.28), p=<0.001), soda (B=0.25 (SE =0.10), p=0.003), diet soda (B=0.20 (SE =0.09), p=0.003), pre-packaged salty snacks (B=0.16 (SE =0.09), p=0.04), and frozen meal consumption (B=0.16 (SE =0.05), p=<0.002). No moderation effect was found by gender. Results suggest that those students who consume more energy drinks also consume more unhealthy foods and beverages. Given these associations, it is important that interventions aimed at addressing diet quality, overweight, or obesity rates within this population also consider the implications of energy drink consumption as a risk factor.