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Study: Alcohol Drinkers Still Impaired if They Also Drink Red Bull

March 27, 2006 -- If you drink alcohol, don't count on energy drinks such as Red Bull to keep you sober.

In a new study, young, healthy men reported feeling less drunk when they drank vodka mixed with Red Bull. But those impressions were misleading.

"The person is drunk but does not feel as drunk as he really is," says researcher Maria Lucia Souza-Formigoni, PhD, in a news release.

"People need to understand that the 'sensation' of well-being does not necessarily mean that they are unaffected by alcohol," Souza-Formigoni says, warning drinkers not to get behind the wheel. "Despite how good they may feel, they shouldn't drink and drive. Never."

Urban Legend?

Red Bull and other energy drinks don't claim to override alcohol's effects.

But energy drinks are often served with alcohol in night clubs, says Souza-Formigoni, who works in the psychobiology department of Brazil's Federal University of Sao Paolo.

"In Brazil, as in other countries, young people believe that Red Bull and other energy drinks [help them] avoid the sleepiness caused by alcoholic beverages and increase their capacity to dance all night," Souza-Formigoni says.

Her study included 26 healthy young men who were about 23 years old. In a lab, the men drank Red Bull, vodka, or Red Bull mixed with vodka. Each man drank one drink per session, waiting at least a week between sessions. The drinks looked and tasted the same, so no one could tell which was which.

The tests were done at midday in a lab. Before each test, the researchers fed each man a Big Mac, fries, and a soft drink. Afterward, the men got a snack of fruit juice, bread, cookies, and coffee before being taken home by taxi.

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