Emerging research on highly caffeinated energy drinks reveals that they
might increase heart contraction rates significantly in healthy people
as early as one hour after consumption.
The research, according to CBS News, was presented at a medical conference
this week. Study authors expressed concern over the types of cardiac side
effects seen and how those effects might impact teen and young adult hearts
over long time frames. "Until now, we haven't known exactly what
effect these energy drinks have on the function of the heart," Dr.
Jonas Dörner, a radiology resident of the cardiovascular imaging
section at the University of Bonn in Germany, said in a statement. "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," Dr. Dörner
added, according to CBS News.
In the past four years, emergency room visits associated with energy drink
consumption have doubled, according to government estimates. In most cases,
visits have involved teenagers and young adults, CBS News indicates. The
popular drinks have also been associated with life-threatening heart rhythm
changes known as arrhythmias, as well as increases in blood pressure.
Dr. Dörner and colleagues took cardiac MRI scans of the hearts of
18 healthy, men (15) and women (3), according to
The Huffington Post; their average age was 27.5 years. According to CBS News, the participants
underwent a cardiac MRI both before and one hour after they consumed an
energy drink that contained 400 milligrams/100 milliliters of taurine
and 32 milligrams/100 milliliters of caffeine. Cardiac MRIs utilize radio
waves, magnets, and a computer that creates pictures of the heart so that
its structure and function can be reviewed.
Comparing the baseline and follow-up MRI, researchers discovered that significant
increases in peak strain and peak systolic strain occurred in the heart's
left ventricle. Both levels are used as measures of how the heart contracts
and its contractility. The left ventricle is where oxygen-rich blood is
received from the lungs and pumped into the aorta, distributing the blood
throughout the body, CBS News reported. The research team did not find
that drinking the energy drinks impacted blood pressure, heart rate, or
the pumping of blood from the left ventricle,
The Huffington Post indicated.
"We've shown that energy drink consumption has a short-term impact
on cardiac contractility," Dr. Dörner said. "Further studies
are needed to evaluate the impact of long-term energy drink consumption
and the effect of such drinks on individuals with heart disease,"
he added, according to
The Huffington Post. "We don't know exactly how or if this greater contractility
of the heart impacts daily activities or athletic performance," said
Dr. Dörner. "We need additional studies to understand this mechanism
and to determine how long the effect of the energy drink lasts."
The study is ongoing, according to CBS News; additional research might
reveal if short-term contractility changes could affect people with heart disease.
The amount of caffeine is about three times greater in energy drinks than
in other caffeinated drinks such as coffee or cola, notes Dr. Dörner.
Although the potential health risks of this cardiac effect are unknown,
the researchers suggest that those with cardiac arrhythmia avoid these
drinks as arrhythmia could be triggered by changes to the heart's
The Huffington Post reported.
The study was presented on December 2nd at the Radiological Society of
North America's annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois. Until the research
is published in a peer-reviewed journal, it is considered preliminary.
- CBS News; Energy Drinks Increase Heart Contractions, Study Shows: Dangerous?;
by Ryan Jaslow; December 2, 2013; http://www.cbsnews.com/news/energy-drinks-heart-contractions/
The Huffington Post, HuffPost Healthy Living; Energy Drinks Increase Heart Contraction Rate
In Healthy People: Study; December 2-3, 2013; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/02/energy-drinks-heart-contraction-rate_n_4351500.html