Energy drinks are all around us. The multi-billion dollar industry has boomed in recent years. Seemingly innocent enough, this industry is largely unregulated but a recent study, from the University of Bonn, Germany, suggests we should pay more attention to the effects of these beverages, especially as they relate to heart performance.
While most users are younger, between 18 and 39, the study suggests we should be careful what we consume. However, the study suggests that the demographics of users of energy drinks are broad-based. The drinks are especially popular with athletes and people who feel they need energy throughout the day.
A popular new trend on the bar scene is to combine alcohol and energy drinks. The study did not include an assessment of the impact of this combination but the mix could be risky.
A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicated that from 2007 to 2011, the number of annual emergency room visits in the US more than doubled from 10,068 to 20,783. Most of these cases involved young adults aged 18-25.
The University of Bonn study was led by Dr. Jonas Dorner who said; “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.”
The side effects of large doses of caffeine include rapid heart rate, palpitations, rise in blood pressure and can even cause fatal seizures. The Bonn study shows that energy drinks increase peak strain and peak systolic strain rates in the heart’s left ventricle.
The study used MRIs to measure the effect of energy drinks on the heart. Study participants were subjected to an MRI prior to consuming the energy drink and then an hour after consumption. The energy drinks contained 400 mg/100 ml taurine and 32 mg/100 caffeine.
The post-consumption MRIs showed definite increases in the peak strain and peak systolic strain rates in the left ventricle of the participants. The left ventricle consistently receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it to the aorta where it is distributed to the rest of the body.
The results indicated a significant change but due to the contained environment researchers were unable to ascertain the effect of energy drinks on daily activities or athletic performance.
Dr. Dorner said that further research was necessary to determine long-term effects of energy drink consumption. Consuming the beverages has an impact on “short-term impact on cardiac contractility.” Dorner recommends that children and people with cardiac arrhythmias refrain from consuming energy beverages.