Amid mounting health concerns about highly caffeinated beverages, such as Monster, Rockstar, Red Bull and others, the findings of a new study suggest that side effects of energy drinks may leave cause some consumers to face an increased risk of heart rhythm problems.
In a study published earlier this month by the International Journal of Cardiology, Australian researchers indicate that caffeinated energy drinks can have significant side effects for patients with long QT syndrome (LQTS), which is a condition that affects heart rhythms and sometimes causes rapid, irregular heartbeats. This can result in fainting, seizures, or even sudden death.
Researchers looked at 24 patients with the syndrome, ranging in age from 16 to 50, from 2014 through 2015. Researchers found that drinking energy drinks could result in significantly increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and were linked to a significant increase in serum caffeine and serum taurine levels. Three of the patients suffered dangerous QT prolongation after consuming energy drinks.
“Caffeinated energy drinks have significant haemodynamic effects in patients with LQTS, (especially) an acute increase in blood pressure,” the researchers concluded. “Since dangerous QTc prolongation was seen in some LQTS patients, we recommend caution in young patients with LQTS consuming energy drinks.”
Although most consumers believe energy drinks to be safe due to information on the nutrition labels, the drinks are not regulated because they are considered dietary supplements. Many manufacturers do not even disclose the ingredients or levels of caffeine contained in each bottle.
Energy Drink Health Concerns
Some energy drinks contain up to 400 mg of caffeine per can. In comparison, a cup of coffee typically has around 100 mg of caffeine. Caffeine poisoning can occur in adults at levels higher than 400 mg a day; however children under 12 can experience caffeine poisoning at only 2.5 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight.
Several studies have found that consumption of only a couple energy drinks over a several week period can cause increased blood pressure and heart arrhythmias, which can cause long-term heart problems. In March 2016, the American Heart Association indicated that the overuse of energy drinks could cause increased heart problems including heart attacks, sudden cardiac arrest and other potentially life-threatening complications.
Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in November 2015, found that consuming just one can of Rockstar energy drink led to an increased risk of heart problems and high blood pressure among young, healthy adults.
The FDA is currently investigating health concerns surrounding the drinks, after a number of adverse event reports were submitted in recent years connecting energy drinks to severe injuries and deaths.
According to information released in 2012, at least 37 adverse event reports had been received by the FDA involving health problems from Monster Energy drinks, including at least six deaths.
Amid aggressive marketing by the manufacturers, energy drink sales increased 240% between 2004 and 2009, and the number of caffeine overdose emergency room visits increased from 1,128 in 2005 to 16,055 in 2008. Approximately 56% of those visits involved individuals between the ages of 12 and 25 years.
In recent years, a number of energy drink lawsuits have been filed on behalf of otherwise healthy young adults who suffered sudden heart problems within hours after drinking the beverages, alleging that the manufacturers placed their desire for profits before the safety of consumers.