According to a recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s 2013 Scientific Sessions, energy drinks may increase blood pressure and change the heart’s rhythm. Researchers conducted a two-part analysis in which they reviewed data from seven previous observational and interventional studies. The participants in each of the seven studies were all healthy individuals between the ages of 18 and 45.
In part one of the study, researchers examined the QT interval of 93 people who had just consumed one to three cans of energy drinks. The QT interval is the time for electrical activation and inactivation of the lower chambers of the heart. Researchers found that the QT interval was 10 milliseconds longer for people who had just consumed energy drinks, compared to control subjects. Long QT intervals can cause serious irregular heart rhythms or lead to sudden cardiac death. The second part of the study looked at systolic blood pressure in 132 participants who had recently consumed energy drinks. Researchers found that the energy drinks increased the systolic blood pressure of participants by an average of 3.5 points.
The study is only in its preliminary stage because it was presented at a medical conference and has yet to be published. In response to the study, the American Beverage Association released a statement: “Most energy drinks contain about half the caffeine of a similarly-sized cup of coffee house coffee and the body of scientific evidence does not suggest that energy drinks cause adverse health outcomes.” On the other hand, many health care professionals believe that there is enough information in the preliminary study to cause concern and that further research is warranted.
Energy drinks have made headlines recently with negative health reactions allegedly caused by energy drinks. In November 2012, the FDA announced that it was investigating 13 deaths tied to 5-hour Energy products and other reports of adverse events. In addition, the FDA launched another investigation to look at five deaths and one non-fatal heart attack that were linked to Monster Energy Drinks. This included the death of a 14-year-old girl whose family sued the energy drink company after the girl went into cardiac arrest after drinking two 24-ounce Monster Beverage Corp. drinks within one day.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, emergency room visits due to energy drinks have doubled over the last four years from 10,000 visits in 2007 to 20,000 in 2011. Forty-two percent of the cases involved a combination of energy drinks with alcohol, or prescription drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin.