Energy Drinks Can Lead to Life-threatening Cardiac Changes

Energy drinks may be quite popular among people, especially youngsters throughout the world but they have lately gained a bad reputation among health experts, owing to high levels of caffeine, sugar and stimulants they contain.

Much evidence has come to light revealing adverse effects of energy drinks on human health, and this time by a new study from the American Heart Association.

The current study experts have warned that energy drinks can have catastrophic effects on you heart. The experts warn that these commercially available beverages can trigger potentially life threatening changes in the heart’s electrical activity and blood pressure.

Energy drinks contain caffeine content in abundance, more than that of soda and even coffee. What is shocking about the current study findings is that it is not caffeine but other non-caffeine ingredients in these caffeine laden beverages that pose the risk.

According to them, drinking only one 32 ounce can of an energy drink can cause more “profound changes” in heart’s electrical system and blood pressure than a control drink with the same amount of caffeine but not the other ingredients.

“What the growing body of evidence is pointing to is that there are effects on the heart that are different than caffeine alone,” says study author Emily Fletcher, a deputy pharmacy flight commander from David Grant U.S.A.F. Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base in California. “Consumers should be aware that drinking an energy drink is not the same as drinking coffee or soda.”

For the study, researchers recruited 18 healthy young participants and divided them into two groups. The first group received 32 ounces of a commercially available energy drink that contained 108g of sugar, 320mg of caffeine, and various other compounds. The second group consumed a control drink with the same amount of caffeine but not other ingredients.

Each participant’s blood pressure and cardiac electrical activity were measured five times within 24 hours of consuming the drinks. After a week, the participants switched drinks.

Fletcher and her team found that volunteers in the energy drink group experienced a corrected QT interval 10-milliseconds higher than the caffeine-only group.

Dr Fletcher explained: “The QT interval is the measurement of the time it takes ventricles in the heart, the lower chambers, to repolarise, or prepare to generate a beat again…..If this time interval, which is measured in milliseconds, is either too short or too long, it can cause the heart to beat abnormally. The resulting arrhythmia can be life threatening.”

As of blood pressure, both groups showed higher blood pressure after their drinks. But the participants who consumed the control drink returned to baseline levels after six hours, contrary to those who drank the energy drink; their blood pressure remained higher for more than six hours.

Meanwhile, the researchers have warned that people with hypertension, underlying cardiac conditions or risk factors for heart issues should avoid drinking energy drinks until further evaluation is done to draw any confirmed decision.

The new research is published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.