Sunday, June 16, 2019

Definitely No Bull

Energy drinks on offer - you buying?
My previous article on energy drinks like Red Bull was one of the more popular articles the year I wrote about it. Many readers commented that they were not aware how bad energy drinks were. In fact, the World Health Organization issued a statement calling energy drinks a potential danger to public health.

Now it seems that there may be more reasons to avoid energy drinks.

A recently published article suggest that caffeinated energy drinks can also raise blood pressure and alter your heart's electrical circuit.

That is definitely not surprising considering there was a case report showing atrial fibrillation (or abnormal heart rhythm in a 14 and 16 year old boy) and even a case of heart attack in a 19 year old previously after consuming energy drinks

The researchers tested two groups of healthy people between the ages of 18-40.  One group drank energy drinks that can be easily purchased containing 304-320 milligrams of caffeine while the other drank a placebo drink consisting of lime juice, carbonated water and cherry flavoring.

The participants drank 946 ml (or 32 ounces) of either one of those drinks on three separate days while researchers measured their heart's electrical activity and blood pressure. Measurements were taken before they drank, twice within the hour that they drank the beverage and four hours after.

Now, you'll be shocked to read that they group that drank the energy drink showed higher QT intervals up to four hours later. The QT interval is the time it takes the lower chambers of your heart to prepare for a beat. In general, the normal QT interval is below 0.4 to 0.44 seconds. If the interval is too short or long, it can cause arrhythmia. This is a condition where the heart beats abnormally.

Other than the change in QT intervals, those that drank the energy drink had a significant increase in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Coffee lovers will be glad to know that the researchers do not think that caffeine is the main culprit for the increase in QT interval. It may be the caffeine in combination with the other ingredients like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and non nutritive stimulants like guarana, ginseng taurine, L-carnitine, inositol, verba mate and D-glucuronoalactone that caused the changes.

The researchers cautioned the elderly, young children and those of you who have underlying long QT intervals, hypertension and taking antibiotics and anti-arrhythmic medication to be careful with consuming energy drinks.

Also, consuming a few cans of the energy drinks can certainly exacerbate those with underlying heart conditions or those taking certain heart medications.


Shah SA, Szeto AH et al (2019). Impact Of High Volume Energy Drink Consumption On Electrocardiographic And Blood Pressure Parameters: A Randomized Trial. JAHA. 8(11). DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.118.011318.

Now that's a lot of bull you do not want

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