The findings of a new study suggest that popular drinks like Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar may affect the way the heart beats, causing it to have more forceful heart contractions, which increases recent concerns about the potential heart risks of energy drinks.
In a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North American (RSNA) on December 2, researchers from Germany found that adults who consume energy drinks have significantly increased heart contraction rates after drinking the beverages.
Researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany conducted cardiac MRI’s on 18 participants, 15 men and three women. An MRI was administered before participants drank energy drinks and then again one hour after consuming the energy drink.
The study measured the energy drinks side effects on the functioning of the heart, finding that after consuming the highly caffeinated beverages, participants had increased strain on the left ventricle of the heart.
The left ventricle is the portion of the heart which receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it to the aorta, distributing blood to the rest of the body.
Participants in the study consumed a drink with 400 mg of taurine and 32 mg of caffeine. They had an average age of 27 and were all in good health before beginning the study.
Researchers are unsure if the forceful contractions will affect daily activity or athletic performance. However, they warn children and people with known cardiac arrhythmias to avoid energy drinks, saying they may trigger arrhythmias.
The team is unsure how long the heart side effects of the energy drinks last. They also noted no differences in heart rate, blood pressure or the amount of blood ejected from the left ventricle of the heart were seen after consumption.
Energy Drink Heart Side Effects
As the popularity of energy drinks has increased dramatically in recent years, concerns have also increased about the safety of the beverages and the impact they may have on the heart and overall health of consumers.
With large advertising budgets, manufacturers have heavily marketed the drinks towards teens and other young adults, who typically consume large volumes of the beverages or combine them with alcohol, which may dramatically increase the health risks.
In this latest study, researchers referenced a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which indicated that emergency room visits involving energy drink consumption nearly doubled from 2007 to 2011.
Health experts at Rutgers University recently found medical emergencies involving children who consumed energy drinks are also on the rise and may lead to future patterns of addiction. Many of the injuries include seizures, heart palpitations and death.
Monster Beverage Corporation has responded to the study in a statement issued Monday afternoon, calling the research “alarmist and misleading.” The energy drink manufacturer also said the study “confirms taurine helps the heart function more efficiently by improving the pumping force of the heart,” suggesting that forceful heart contractions are “widely considered to be beneficial.” Monster claims there is no scientific evidence which proves more forceful heart contractions lead to arrhythmia.
Earlier this year a study published by the American Heart Association revealed energy drink consumption could interfere with the electrical operation of the heart, affecting heart rhythm.
Another study published this year found energy drinks may also increase the risk of heart disease. This may be attributed to the compound carnitine, which may lead to hardening and clogging of the arteries.
Energy Drink Lawsuits
This year, at least two wrongful death lawsuits were filed against Monster by the families who allege that teen children died after consuming the products.
In December 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warned that children should not consumer any energy drinks, as the risk of caffeine overdose may be especially harmful for kids. While children should not consume more than 100 mg of caffeine in a day, Monster and other products typically have 2 to 3 times that amount in each can.
The makers of Red Bull also face a wrongful death lawsuit over the death of a 33-year-old Brooklyn construction worker who died after drinking Red Bull while playing basketball.
Red Bull also faces a class action lawsuit over false advertising, which was filed by a consumer who says that the manufacturer has made misleading claims by suggesting that Red Bull increases physiological and mental performance. The Red Bull class action lawsuit, brought by Benjamin Careathers last January, alleging that the Red Bull website states that there have been “numerous scientific studies” that prove the drink increases performance, concentration, reaction speed, vigilance, and stimulates metabolism.