Whenever we’re feeling a bit sluggish and in need of a mid-afternoon energy boost, some of us will grab a cup of coffee, while others will chug an energy drink, however, a recent study has shown that reaching for an energy drink can be scarily hazardous to your health.
It’s common knowledge that too much sugar is not a good thing and most energy drinks are loaded with it. Researchers studied an unnamed, but readily available energy drink, 32 oz. of which contains 108 grams, equal to 27 teaspoons, of sugar, as well as 320 mg of caffeine, almost the daily recommended limit, alongside other ingredients such as taurine and ginseng, and the effects the drink had on the human body are startling.
The study showed that the consumption of that quantity of the drink caused significant changes in blood pressure and an abnormal shift in the heart’s electrical activity, changes that took place within two hours. It was also found that this impact was far greater than drinking a beverage of equal volume and caffeine content, but minus the sugar and other ingredients.
“We decided to study energy drinks’ potential heart health impact because previous research has shown 75 per cent of the base’s military personnel have consumed an energy drink,” said researcher Dr Emily Fletcher of the US Air Force Medical Centre in Travis, California. The findings of the study were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
For the study, 18 young volunteers were randomly separated into two separate groups. The first group were given 32 oz. of the energy drink, while the second group was given a control mixture containing 320mg of caffeine, plus 1.3 oz. of lime juice and 4.7 oz. of cherry syrup in carbonated water. Then, the volunteers had both the electrical activity of their hearts measured by using an electrocardiogram and their blood pressure taken one, two, four, six and 24 hours after consuming the beverage.
It was found that the hearts of the volunteers who consumed the energy drink were ‘pausing’ for 10 more milliseconds between beats. “It’s the pause from the end of the electrical impulse generating the heart to beat to the next impulse,” said Dr Fletcher. “If this time interval, which is measured in milliseconds, is either too short or too long, it can cause the heart to beat abnormally. The resulting arrhythmia can be life threatening.” Those that consumed the energy drink also still had slightly elevated blood pressure after six hours.
Medications that increase this pause in the heart’s rhythm by just six milliseconds are required to have a warning label, while energy drinks don’t. There are currently over 500 types of energy drinks on the market, and a dramatic increase in emergency room visits linked to their consumption has caused many to question the safety of the beverages.