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Energy drinks can cause serious heart conditions

Energy drinks may contribute to potentially serious heart conditions, according to a new study from Texas A&M University. The researchers have discovered that energy drinks can cause negative impacts to the muscle cells of the heart.

The researchers observed the responses of human heart cells grown in a laboratory, or cardiomyocytes, after they were exposed to 17 widely available over-the-counter brands of energy drinks. The cells showed an increased beat rate, as well as other factors that affect cardiac function.

When it comes to the human body, energy drinks have been linked to a disease of the heart muscle which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood known as cardiomyopathy. These drinks are also associated with increased blood pressure, improper beating of the heart, and other potentially dangerous conditions.

With the global sales of energy drinks estimated at $53 billion in 2018 and rapidly growing, it is important to understand the unintended health consequences associated with these beverages, explained study lead author Dr. Ivan Rusyn.

“Because the consumption of these beverages is not regulated and they are widely accessible over the counter to all age groups, the potential for adverse health effects of these products is a subject of concern and needed research,” said Dr. Rusyn. 

“Indeed, the consumption of energy drinks has been associated with a wide range of adverse health effects in humans, many of them are concerning the effects on the heart.”

By using mathematical models, the experts were able to identify which specific ingredients contributed to the adverse effects observed on the treated cardiomyocytes. They noted the presence of theophylline, adenine, and azelate, which are substances that can have negative effects on the heart.

“Little is known about the ingredients that may contribute to the adverse effects of energy drinks on the heart,” said Dr. Rusyn. “Specifically, the evidence for cardiovascular effects from studies in humans remains inconclusive, as the controlled clinical trials were largely limited in the number of participants. They were tested only a limited number of energy drink types, and are difficult to compare directly, because they employed different methods to evaluate the function of the cardiovascular system.”

Further research is needed to analyze the ingredients identified to ensure the safety of their consumption, particularly among people with pre-existing health conditions.

“This study shows that some of the tested energy drinks may have effects on human cardiomyocytes, and these data corroborate other studies in humans,” said Dr. Rusyn. “Therefore, we hope that the consumers will carefully weigh the performance-enhancing benefits of these beverages versus the emerging data that suggests that they may have real adverse effects.

“We also hope that the Food and Drug Administration takes a closer look at whether these beverages may need to be carefully reviewed with respect to possible labeling of their adverse health effects, and whether certain age groups and susceptible sub-populations should be advised against consumption of these beverages.”

The study is published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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