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Dec 09, 2013

Energy Drinks Increase the Heart's Contraction Rate

Study suggests that energy drinks may be unsafe for children and individuals with existing heart conditions, like an irregular heartbeat.

Energy drinks are one of the most popular pick-me-ups, especially among young adults. Containing roughly three times more caffeine than coffee, they’re a quick and easy way to increase energy and can be found at nearly all convenience stores and supermarkets. But we have a lot to learn about the health impacts of energy drinks on the heart and according to a recent study, they may be unsafe for patients with heart conditions.

Presented at a medical conference on Dec. 2, this study included 18 healthy, young adults with an average age of 27.5 years. Using cardiac imaging, researchers assessed subjects’ heart function immediately before and one hour after consuming an energy drink, which contained 32 milligrams of caffeine and 400 milligrams of taurine.

The investigators found that the energy drink caused the heart to contract faster, which could be dangerous for children and patients with existing heart conditions. Researchers also looked at the impact of the energy drink on heart rate and blood pressure but didn’t find any major differences in these metrics before and after the consumption of energy drinks.

This study has raised concern among experts, especially since there is currently little to no regulation of energy drink sales. There are numerous concerns about the impact of energy drinks on the heart’s function and this study adds to the body of evidence suggesting energy drinks may be unsafe, particularly for young adults and patients with heart conditions. Energy drinks have been linked to an irregular heartbeat called arrhythmia as well as increases in blood pressure, and government estimates show that the number of hospital visits related to energy-drink consumption has doubled in the past four years. Most patients are either adolescents or young adults.

Experts hope that additional research will be conducted in the near future to further our understanding of the impact of energy drinks on the heart. If energy drinks are, in fact, dangerous for many individuals like young adults or heart patients, strict regulation is essential to help prevent potentially life-threatening outcomes.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How much caffeine can I safely have in one day?
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that adults have no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, which is equivalent to about four to five cups of coffee. However, the FDA notes that there is no safe level for children.
  • What is atrial fibrillation?

  • Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm caused by abnormal, chaotic electrical impulses in the heart’s upper chambers, the atria. These electrical impulses, which interfere with the heart’s natural pacemaker, fire so rapidly the atria cannot beat with a regular rhythm or squeeze out blood effectively. Instead, they merely quiver while the ventricles, the heart’s lower chambers, beat rapidly.

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