No Bull: Energy Drinks Tied to Cardiac Change

Heather Allen
By: Heather Allen 

Energy drinks have been a continually growing trend in healthy, young adults for some time. The appeal of energy drinks compared to simply caffeinated beverages is not truly known, however recent research has brought about a possible explanation of the difference between caffeine and energy drinks on energy levels. While energy drinks do contain a significant amount of caffeine in them, Fletcher et al. found that a comparable amount of caffeine in two separate drinks, one an energy drink and one not, still had differing effects on heart functions.1 This information leads to a belief that other ingredients within energy drinks are the cause of the blood pressure and QT interval differences.

            In the study by Fletcher et al., eighteen participants were randomly selected to participate in the study. There were two portions of the experiment that every participant partook in: the control portion and the experimental portion. The control portion involved drinking 32 ounces of a controlled beverage containing 320 mg of caffeine. The controlled drink had no other ingredients in it that were believed to have any possible effects on the cardiac outcomes that were being tested. After at least six days, the subjects began consuming the experimental drink instead. The experimental drink also contained 320 mg of caffeine, but other typical ingredients found in energy drinks were in it as well. Blood pressure, QT intervals, and heart rate were some of the most important facets being recorded throughout the duration of the experiment. All information was recorded for both the controlled and experimental portion of the experiment at baseline, after 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours, and 24 hours after consumption of the beverage.

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            The study found that there was not a significant difference on cardiac function after six hours of consumption in any of the characteristics observed. However, the two hour mark seemed to be the most significant in differing outcomes between the control and experimental drinks. For example, corrected QT intervals were different between the groups at the two hour mark, but not at any other time interval. A similar increase in systolic blood pressure was noticed until the six hour mark was reached, in which case abnormalities were seen in the energy drink consumption. All other cardiac functions being monitored, such as diastolic blood pressure and heart rate, did not have any significant differences between the control and experimental portions of the experiment.2 The results led researchers to the belief that blood pressure may be altered when energy drinks are consumed.

The significance of the articles is mainly helpful for those who suffer with high blood pressure, cardiac problems, and other health issues that may be negatively affected by energy drinks. If someone needs a boost of energy for the day, a quick cup of coffee may be the better choice as the health effects of caffeine on the body are more known to researchers. 1 The topic of energy drinks still needs more research before any true conclusions are drawn, however it may be important to lean towards coffee rather than an energy drink if there are any concerns related to a person’s heart.


References:

  1. Fletcher EA, Lacey CS, Aaron M, Kolasa M, Occiano A, Shah SA. Randomized Controlled Trial of High‐Volume Energy Drink Versus Caffeine Consumption on ECG and Hemodynamic Parameters. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2017;6(5). doi:10.1161/jaha.116.004448.
  2. Bachert A. Energy Drinks Tied to Cardiac Changes. MedPage Today. April 2017.
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