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Energy Drinks may be Tied to Cardiac Issues

Posted By On Behalf of Sullivan Brill || 9-Dec-2013

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 contraction rates, 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;
  • The Huffington Post, HuffPost Healthy Living; Energy Drinks Increase Heart Contraction Rate In Healthy People: Study; December 2-3, 2013;