Energy drinks may have a negative impact on the cardiovascular health of those who choose to consume them, a new study finds.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic published the results of their small study recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and their findings suggest that consuming the caffeine-dense, sugary drinks can negatively impact the health of those who drink them.
Researchers observed 25 healthy subjects with a median age of 29, in a double-blind study to discover the effects of consuming one 16-ounce Rockstar energy drink. They found the impact to be greater than just the caffeine buzz consumers have come to rely on from energy drinks.
“In previous research, we found that energy drink consumption increased blood pressure in healthy young adults,” said Anna Svatikova, M.D., PhD. “We now show that the increases in blood pressure are accompanied by increases in norepinephrine, a stress hormone chemical, and this could predispose an increased risk of cardiac events – even in healthy people.”
The study found that norepinephrine levels prior to consuming a Rockstar energy drink, sat at an average level of 149.8 picograms per milliliter of blood. After drinking the energy drink, norepinephrine levels rose to 249.8 picograms per milliliter of blood. Researchers also discovered that blood pressure rose an average of 6 percent after consuming the energy drink.
The increase in norepinephrine and blood pressure in the test subjects may be attributed to the amount of caffeine in the energy drink, or the combination of other ingredients in conjunction with the caffeine in the Rockstar.
“Energy drinks contain caffeine and other stimulants which increase stress on the cardiovascular system. Frequent use of such stimulant increases extra burden on the heart. So chronic users of such drinks are prone to heart problems,” said Dr. Kewal Krishan in an interview with Economic Times.
Pete Zalewski, a forty-one-year-old consumer of energy drinks knows all too well the dangers of which Dr. Krishan and Dr. Svatikova warn. Zalewski almost died from drinking energy drinks.
Zalewski drank an energy drink before his daily morning workout, then a couple more to keep him going during the day. One day, he almost blacked out, and felt like he was experiencing a heart attack. Zalewski found that his heart rate was almost 200 beats per minute.
“I feel a lot of people don’t realize how bad these are for you,” said Zalewski in an interview with CBS Chicago.
A 16-ounce can of Rockstar, like the one consumed in the study, contains 240 milligrams of caffeine along with 2,000 milligrams of taurine. It also contains ingredients such as guarana and ginseng, both of which are stimulants. An eight ounce cup of coffee contains roughly 100 milligrams of caffeine, and the maximum recommended daily dose of taurine is 500 milligrams, according to Global Healing Center.
Despite the massive dosing of caffeine and supplemental ingredients contained in commercial energy drinks, manufacturers insist they are safe to consume.
“The safety of energy drinks has been established by scientific research as well as regulatory agencies around the globe. Just this year the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed the safety of energy drinks and their ingredients after an extensive review. Even so, America’s leading energy drink manufacturers voluntarily go far beyond all federal requirements when it comes to responsible labeling and marketing practices, including displaying total caffeine content – from all sources – on their packages, along with advisory statements indicating that the product is not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women and persons sensitive to caffeine,” the American Beverage Association said in a statement to TIME.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 107 cases of adverse reactions to energy drinks, including 44 reported heart problems and nine deaths, according to CBS Chicago.