Just One Energy Drink Could Increase Risk of Heart Attack, Study Shows


Just one energy drink can harm blood vessel function and increase the risk of cardiac problems, according to a new study that will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2018 in Chicago.

Researchers at the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston studied 44 healthy and non-smoking medical students in their 20s for the small-scale study.

Each student drank a 24-ounce energy drink, and their blood vessel function was tested before and 90 minutes later. The researchers used ultrasound to measure “artery flow-mediated dilation,” which is an indicator for general blood vessel health.

“They found vessel dilation was on average 5.1 percent in diameter before the energy drink and fell to 2.8 percent diameter after, suggesting acute impairment in vascular function,” according to a press release.

These results show that energy drinks can reduce blood flow to vital organs of the body, while increasing the risk of conditions such as heart attacks due to constricted blood vessels.

John Higgins, M.D., M.B.A., and his colleagues from the study said this result could be caused by the combined effect of substances in the energy drinks, which often include significant amounts of caffeine, taurine, herbs, and sugar.

“As energy drinks are becoming more and more popular, it is important to study the effects of these drinks on those who frequently drink them and better determine what, if any, is a safe consumption pattern,” the authors said.

More Concerns With Energy Drinks

This is not the first time evidence of potential harm has emerged regarding energy drinks.
A study from 2015 by the Mayo Clinic found that just drinking one 16-ounce energy drink significantly increased blood pressure and norepinephrine, a stress hormone chemical. These effects are also known to potentially increase the risk of cardiovascular events.

“These results suggest that people should be cautious when consuming energy drinks due to possible health risks,” said Anna Svatikova, M.D., Ph.D., lead author on the study. “Asking patients about energy drink consumption should become routine for physicians, particularly when interpreting vital signs in the acute setting.”

The World Health Organization analyzed studies on energy drinks in Europe in 2014 and found that the main problem with energy drinks was the high caffeine content. Too much caffeine can cause heart palpitations, hypertension, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and even death in rare cases.

While the Food and Drug Administration can regulate food products to make sure they’re safe for consumption, energy drinks are considered supplements.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have the authority to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed,” states the FDA website.
Surveys have found that around 30% to 50% of adolescents and young adults consume energy drinks.
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