Do energy drinks affect your heart? Promoted as trendy vitamin-filled beverages that can boost anyone’s stamina, it seems everyone is consuming energy drinks these days. What you may not know is that some of them contain considerably more caffeine than a single cup of coffee and cause adverse cardiovascular effects.
A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association with over 34 volunteers found that people who managed to drink 32 ounces of energy drinks in a 60 minute period, but not faster than one 16-ounce bottle in 30 minutes, had abnormal electrical activity in the heart three to four hours later.
There were 304 to 320 milligrams of caffeine in the 32-ounce beverages, which should not have been enough to generate abnormal electrocardiographic changes. Taurine, glucuronolactone, and B vitamins were energy drink ingredients that were consumed in the study.
“We found an association between consuming energy drinks and changes in QT intervals and blood pressure that cannot be attributed to caffeine. We urgently need to investigate the particular ingredient or combination of ingredients in different types of energy drinks that might explain the findings seen in our clinical trial,” said lead author Sachin A. Shah, Pharm.D., professor of pharmacy practice at University of the Pacific, Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Stockton, California.
“Energy drinks are readily accessible and commonly consumed by a large number of teens and young adults, including college students. Understanding how these drinks affect the heart is extremely important,” said study co-author Kate O’Dell, Pharm.D., professor of pharmacy and director of experiential programs at the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
The research is the largest controlled study of the heart and blood pressure effects of energy drinks in healthy, young volunteers. Data suggests that in the United States, approximately 30% of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 consume energy drinks on a daily basis, related to increased visits to emergency rooms and deaths.
US Poison Control Centers
According to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014, more than 40% of 5,156 calls about energy drinks to U.S. Poison Control Centers involved children younger than 6 with some suffering serious cardiac and neurological symptoms. Approximately 40% were unintentional exposures by younger children (e.g. unplanned or unforeseen) among the 5,156 cases reported of energy drink exposure.
Cardiovascular Complications Associated with Energy Drink Use
- Increased heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Coronary artery thrombosis
- Aortic dissection
- Sudden cardiac death
- Endothelial dysfunction
Continued increased usage could also lead to potential chronic conditions such as:
- Coronary artery disease
- Cerebrovascular disease
- Peripheral arterial disease
Emergency Room Visits
A study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s survey of U.S. hospitals said the number of energy drink-related emergency room visits doubled in four years, from 10,000 in 2007 to 20,000 in 2011. 42% of those 20,000 ER visits in 2011 mixed the energy drink with another stimulant, like Adderall or Ritalin, or with alcohol, and 58% consumed only the energy drink.
More Research is Necessary
As far as the cardiovascular system is concerned, the consumption of energy drinks is associated with increased cardiac demand. Complications are associated with changes to the cardiovascular system, not only in patients with underlying cardiovascular conditions, but also in young people. The risk of complications due to hazardous consumption patterns, including frequent and heavy use, is particularly high for these young consumers. While the acute cardiovascular effects of consuming energy drinks have been described, the chronic cardiovascular implications are less clear. Research is absolutely needed with the rise in emergency room visits due to energy drink consumption complications and multiple reported deaths correlated with use.