Study sparks energy drink warning

February 3, 2016 by Kate Bourne
Energy drinks

Drinking more than two energy drinks per day is associated with adverse heart reactions, including palpitations, a raised heart rate and chest pain.

In a paper published in International Journal of Cardiology, researchers surveyed patients aged 13-40 attending a in South Australia with heart palpitations, and found 70 per cent had previously consumed some sort of energy drink.

Co-author on the paper, the University of Adelaide's Dr Scott Willoughby, said the study found a direct link between energy drink consumption and hospital admissions for adverse heart reactions.

"Of the patients surveyed, 36 per cent had consumed at least one energy drink in the 24 hours prior to presenting at the hospital and 70 per cent had consumed some sort of energy drink in their lifetime," Dr Willoughby said.

"Eight of these patients had consumed a large quantity (more than five drinks), with one patient having consumed 12 energy drinks with alcohol.

"Those patients who were heavy consumers of energy drinks were found to have a significantly higher frequency of heart palpitations than those who consumed less than one per day.

"And, importantly, fast heartbeat, and was seen in energy drink consumers who were healthy and had no risk factors for heart disease."

The patients were surveyed at Lyell McEwin Hospital in South Australia in 2014 and 2015.

Dr Ian Musgrave, from the University of Adelaide's Discipline of Pharmacology, said there had been increasing concern that the consumption of energy drinks could lead to harm, particularly when mixed with alcohol.

"Energy drinks have become enormously popular in the past decade and half are consumed extensively by people who wish to reduce fatigue, increase wakefulness, and improve concentration and performance," Dr Musgrave said.

"Different brands of energy drinks contain different ingredients, but most of them combine high levels of caffeine with large quantities of sugar as well as vitamins and herbal extracts.

"Caffeine is one of the safest stimulants we know about but it looks like caffeinated drinks are more problematic for people with pre-disposed heart conditions than they are for normal people.

"People are unlikely to slam down seven espressos one after the other but people are more likely to – especially under the influence – misuse energy drinks in that way.

"One of the problems with alcohol is that not only does it reduce your ability to make sensible decisions about energy drinks, it actually slows the breakdown of caffeine in energy drinks and therefore is likely to increase the concentration to levels which may be dangerous.

Dr Musgrave said the study highlighted the need for education about the dangers of consuming above the recommended maximum quantities of energy drinks, which were generally two a day.

He said it also showed there could be a group of people that had some genetic pre-disposition to irregular heartbeat, which was not apparent until they had been stimulated with caffeine.

"Heart pulpatations are taken quite seriously because they can lead to arythmia and you can go into cardiac arrest," Dr Musgrave said.

"Anyone feeling unwell after consuming should seek medical advice."

Explore further: Concern grows over high-caffeine drinks availability

More information: Maureen Busuttil et al. A survey of energy drink consumption among young patients presenting to the emergency department with the symptom of palpitations, International Journal of Cardiology (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2015.11.118

Related Stories

Concern grows over high-caffeine drinks availability

November 30, 2015
Concern is growing even stronger among West Australians about the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to kids aged under 12, with health researchers calling for government policy to restrict sales to young people.

Connections discovered between masculinity, energy drink use, and sleep problems

November 4, 2015
Energy drinks have grown in popularity for many Americans, but there is growing concern about the health risks of consuming them in large quantities. Because men are the main consumers of energy drinks, a research team lead ...

Energy drinks raise resting blood pressure, with effect most dramatic in those not used to caffeine

March 13, 2015
Healthy young adults who don't consume caffeine regularly experienced greater rise in resting blood pressure after consumption of a commercially available energy drink—compared to a placebo drink—thus raising the concern ...

Only some energy drinks change endothelial function

October 19, 2015
(HealthDay)—Some energy drinks appear to significantly improve endothelial function, while other energy drinks and coffee do not, according to a study published in the Nov. 1 issue of The American Journal of Cardiology.

Many children and adolescents get too much caffeine from energy drinks

December 18, 2014
When children aged 10-14 consume energy drinks, one in five consumes too much caffeine. When their caffeine intake from other sources such as cola and chocolate is included, every second child and more than one in three adolescents ...

Study finds association between energy drinks and traumatic brain injury in teens

September 16, 2015
Teens who reported a traumatic brain injury in the past year were seven times more likely to have consumed at least five energy drinks in the past week than those without a history of TBI, according to a study published today ...

Recommended for you

Five vascular diseases linked to one common genetic variant

July 27, 2017
Genome-wide association studies have implicated a common genetic variant in chromosome 6p24 in coronary artery disease, as well as four other vascular diseases: migraine headache, cervical artery dissection, fibromuscular ...

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.