Red Bull May Decrease Reaction Time

This study examined the immediate effects of consumption of a popular glucose drink, Red Bull, on behavioral control. Behavioral control is the ability to perform a particular task that a person wants to perform and also the ability to discontinue a task a person does not want to perform. The researchers also assessed the reduction in mental fatigue and improvement in concentration after drinking Red Bull. The results indicate that drinking a glucose energy drink, like Red Bull, “can increase feelings of stimulation, decrease mental fatigue, and decrease reaction times on a behavioral control task,” according to the authors.

Sales of energy drinks increased more than 400 percent between 2003 and 2007. High school and college aged students account for much of the consumption because the drinks are promoted as performance enhancers. So far, no studies have measured the cognitive effects of these energy drinks. The current study was designed to determine if energy drinks improve behavioral control. Behavioral control plays a role in disorders, such as in substance abuse and binge drinking, where self-control is reduced. The researchers used a “cued go/no-go task” to measure behavioral control. In this method, subjects had to press a particular button when a light of a particular color was lit. If the light of some other color was shown, they were supposed to restrain from pressing any button. The time taken to press the button is known as the reaction time. The researchers also evaluated reduction in mental fatigue after consumption of Red Bull.

* The study included 80 participants, aged around 20 years. Their demographic data and details of their mental and physical health condition were assessed. Their daily caffeine consumption was also noted, since it is known to improve mental function.
* Using questionnaires, different cognitive functions such as impulsiveness, attention, stimulation, sedation, and mental fatigue were measured before the start of the experiment. At the same time, behavioral control was measured using the “cued go/no-go task” method.
* The participants were divided into five groups. The first, second, and third groups received an energy drink having 0.06 oz., 0.12 oz., and 0.18 oz. per 2.2 lbs. body weight, respectively. The fourth group received a placebo drink tasting similar to Red Bull, but devoid of caffeine. The last group did not receive any drink.
* Thirty minutes after consumption of the drink, all the cognitive capacities and behavioral control were assessed again.

* The baseline measurements showed that there were no significant differences between the groups with regard to physical and mental health status, caffeine consumption, behavioral control, and cognitive functions.
*  Red Bull decreased reaction times on the behavioral control test. It also increased the subjects’ own ratings of how stimulated they felt and decreased their feelings of how mentally fatigued they felt.
* The highest beneficial effects were observed at lower doses of energy drinks.

Shortcomings/Next steps
The effects of only one energy drink, namely Red Bull, were assessed. There is a need to examine the effects of other energy drinks as well, since they differ markedly in their composition. The participants did not know if they were drinking the energy drink or a placebo. Expectation plays a role in improved or impaired behavior after taking in caffeine. Further studies need to examine the association between expectation and the response to energy drinks.

This study has shown that the Red Bull energy drink can enhance behavioral control capacity and decrease mental fatigue. This is probably the reason for the dramatic increase in the sales of this energy drink. Red Bull is the highest sold energy drink, having a market share of 65 percent. There has been a tendency in recent times to mix energy drinks with alcohol because they reduce the sedative effects of alcohol. This promotes more alcohol consumption, which might have harmful effects on health. Hence, there is a need to provide proper content labeling and  information about potential adverse effects associated with these drinks.

For More Information:
Acute Effects of a Glucose Energy Drink on Behavioral Control
Publication Journal: Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2010
By Meagan A Howard; Cecile A Marczinski; Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky

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