"This is an important finding because it provides evidence of a mechanism through which energy drinks may increase binge drinking, and consequently, alcohol-related harm among young people," said study author Rebecca McKetin at The Australian National University in Canberra.

Those harms might include greater alcohol intoxication, and an increased risk of automobile accidents, as well as drinking-related injuries from fights or falls, McKetin said.

For the study, researchers recruited 75 young adults in Australia, ages 18 to 30.

Half the group was given a cocktail containing about 2 ounces of vodka, 8.5 ounces of a lime-flavored energy drink and nearly 7 ounces of a pineapple coconut fruit drink, while the rest of the participants had a cocktail containing the same amount of vodka and fruit drink mixed with 8.5 ounces of soda water.

Before receiving their cocktails, all the participants completed a questionnaire asking them to describe their typical use of alcohol, caffeine and drugs, 'Live Science' reported.

Ten minutes after sipping their cocktail, the participants filled out a post-test questionnaire rating the drink's taste and its effects on them, and then took a breathalyser test to measure their blood alcohol concentrations.

The results showed that young people who drank alcohol plus the energy drink liked the taste better, had lower average blood alcohol levels, and also reported a greater urge to keep drinking than those given the alcohol-only cocktail.

Researchers believe that caffeine and sugar may be behind the increased desire to drink more when combining energy drinks with alcohol.

Rebecca explained that the sugary additives in energy drinks contribute to their palatability, and may increase people's desire to keep drinking.

Another reason could be the caffeine content, which might bring out alcohol's stimulant effects and is strongly related to how much people like alcohol.

The study was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

(Agencies)

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