On a date with a straight dude? Maybe it's time to look a little closer at his drink order. If the man in question is chugging a Red Bull and vodka, which is literally a bad sign for his heart, you should probably call it a night and walk quickly in the opposite direction.
Men who hold stereotypical beliefs about masculinity, including homophobic and misogynistic views, are more likely to consume energy drinks, according to a study published this month in the journal Health Psychology. The reason: A misguided belief that slurping on that Amp Energy tall boy could up their macho appeal.
The study surveyed more than 467 adult men between the ages of 18 and 62, though the average age skewed young at 23. Researchers found that men who were more likely to agree with statements like, "A man should always be the boss;" "Homosexuals should never marry" and “A man should prefer watching action movies to reading romantic novels," were more likely to believe in the masculine power of Rock Star (or whatever).
The subtext here: Energy drinks will allow you to perform ultra-masculine feats, making you irresistible to the ladies in the process.
"I think the message men are getting is that if you're a young, white heterosexual male, energy drinks are for you," lead study author Ronald Levant, a psychology professor at the University of Akron, told The Huffington Post. He noted that the prototypical energy drink ad features a young white man engaged in an extreme sport, often with an admiring, attractive female in the frame.
“These kids have no idea how much caffeine they're consuming.”
Older men weren't susceptible to the stereotypically masculine-energy drink connection, a change that Levant chalks up to maturation and a certain level of professional and personal achievement.
"They no longer wonder whether they're masculine enough, or they wonder less, and they therefore have less need to prove it," Levant said.
Of course, the study had its limitations. Most notably, the researchers surveyed a largely homogenous group made up of white, heterosexual college men.
American society is partly to blame for these misguided young adults. When we socialize boys to conform to certain ideas about men should act -- which usually means being aggressive, stoic and self-reliant -- it's unsurprising that men who emerge from the other end of boyhood may have less-than-progressive ideas about how they fit into the world and how to treat the people around them.
Aside from preying on male insecurities, energy drinks can cause physical harm. There's no requirement from the FDA to specify how much caffeine energy drinks contain, meaning caffeine content varies greatly -- from modest amounts to huge amounts -- among brands.
"These kids have no idea how much caffeine they're consuming," Levant said.
And too much caffeine can be downright dangerous. Drinking a single 16-ounce Rockstar energy drink raised healthy adults' blood pressure and stress hormone response, according to a small study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in November.
That study's lead author, Dr. Anna Svatikova, noted that her findings could have consequences for young people, who often consume energy drinks in combination with other substances, such as alcohol, tobacco or recreational drugs.
"The stress hormone responses may potentially increase even further, leading to higher risk of cardiovascular events," Svatikova told The Huffington Post. "People should use caution when consuming energy drinks."
As for Levant, he hopes the new study will serve as a public health message for the young men who are attracted to energy drinks. "Be aware that there maybe be very large amounts of caffeine in them, and they can have some very negative consequences for you," he said. "There are other ways of demonstrating masculinity."
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