Study: Energy Drinks Alter Normal Heart Function

shutterstock_161932256People drink energy drinks in order to stay alert and keep their energy up when they feel a bit tired or sluggish. Many think that such drinks are good for you. But recent reports have seen many people hospitalized because of overconsumption of the beverage. It may not be as safe as it is supposed to be. Not only that, a new study indicates that energy drinks may even affect heart function. Researchers have discovered that energy drinks have the ability to alter the heart functions even of a healthy adult.

Researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany have discovered that healthy adults drinking energy drinks also exhibit significantly increased heart contraction rates an hour after drinking them. One reason is that these drinks are usually high in caffeine and taurine. According to Jonas Dorner, M.D., radiology resident of the cardiovascular imaging section at the University of Bonn, Germany, “Usually energy drinks contain taurine and caffeine as their main pharmacological ingredients. The amount of caffeine is up to three times higher than in other caffeinated beverages like coffee or cola. There are many side effects known to be associated with a high intake of caffeine, including rapid heart rate, palpitations, rise in blood pressure and, in the most severe cases, seizures or sudden death.”

“Until now, we haven’t known exactly what effect these energy drinks have on the function of the heart,” Dr. Dorner added. “There are concerns about the products’ potential adverse side effects on heart function, especially in adolescents and young adults, but there is little or no regulation of energy drink sales.”

During the study, which is still ongoing, Dr. Dorner and his colleagues used cardiac magnetic resonance imaging or MRI to measure the effect on energy drinks on heart function among 18 healthy volunteers. The study group is composed of 15 men and 3 women with an average age of 27.5 years. Each of the volunteers took a cardiac MRI one hour after consuming an energy drink containing 400mg of taurine and 32mg of caffeine per 100ml of the said drink.

When compared to the baseline images, the cardiac MRI of the study participants showed their left heart ventricle has significantly increased peak strain and peak systolic strain rates, which are measurements of the heart’s contractility. ┬áThe heart’s left ventricle receives the oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it into the aorta for distribution throughout the rest of the body.

However, the researchers did not find any significant differences in the heart rate, blood pressure or amount of blood released from the left ventricle between the baseline images and MRI scans of the study participants.

Dr. Dorner further adds, “We don’t know exactly how or if this greater contractility of the heart impacts daily activities or athletic performance. We need additional studies to understand this mechanism and to determine how long the effect of the energy drink lasts.”

While the long-term effects of drinking energy drinks remain unknown, the researcher advises that children or people with cardiac arrhythmias should avoid drinking energy drinks, since changes in contractility can trigger arrhythmias. Additional studies may also be needed to determine the potential risks posed by consuming energy drinks together with alcohol.

Source: Radiological Society of North America. “Cardiac MRI reveals energy drinks alter heart function.” ScienceDaily, 2 Dec. 2013. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.


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