energy drinks study

With more than 500 different products on the market, energy drinks are an increasingly popular choice for teens and young adults. However, researchers say energy drinks can have harmful effects on heart function and blood pressure, especially for those with pre-existing heart conditions.  

What the energy drink study found

A study has found that consuming 32 ounces of an energy drink can increase the risk for raised blood pressure levels and an abnormal heart rhythm. This study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, determined that energy drinks can be far more damaging to the cardiovascular system than caffeine alone.

Though energy drinks contain roughly the same amount of caffeine as a couple cups of coffee, they also contain other non-caffeinated ingredients, such as taurine, I-carnitine, ginseng and high levels of sugar. Many of these ingredients, normally found in Monster Energy, Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy, have not been approved by the FDA as safe to consume.

To give a sense of the difference between caffeine and energy drinks, the blood pressure levels of participants in the study increased by 5 points for those who drank energy drinks. Those who consumed caffeine only saw only a 1-point rise in blood pressure levels.

These elevated levels aren’t necessarily dangerous for healthy individuals, but those with heart conditions need to be extra careful while consuming these drinks. Researchers say specifically that those with Long QT syndrome (LQTS) should avoid energy drinks altogether to prevent greater risk of an abnormal heartbeat.

What this means for you

Because this was a small study with 27 participants, researchers say larger studies need to be completed to fully understand the effects of energy drinks. The question still remains if these dangerous effects on the heart are have long-term repercussions or if these effects subside with time.

However, researchers say children and adolescents should avoid energy drinks whether they’re healthy or not. Between 2010 and 2013, more than 5,000 cases of people who got sick from energy drinks were reported to U.S. poison control centers.Nearly half of those cases were children who did not understand what they were drinking.  

Drinking alternatives to energy drinks

If you’ve decided to cut back on the energy drinks, there are plenty of healthier options on the market.

  • Coffee: By far the most common choice, coffee is a solid standard for getting your fill of caffeine in the morning. You can opt for hot or iced. To save money, make your own brew at home.
  • Green tea: Looking for that caffeine kick but don’t want to drink coffee? In addition to caffeine, green tea comes packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Serve it hot or cold.
  • Flavored waters: There’s plenty of flavored waters on the market that contain no sugar and can be made with carbonated or still water. However, an even healthier alternative is naturally flavored water. Toss a few watermelon, strawberry, blackberry or cucumber slices in a glass of water to enjoy a little extra flavor and vitamins.

Pediatric Cardiology Center of Oregon is committed to caring for patients with cardiac condition from fetal life to adulthood. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.