ENERGY drinks could increase your risk of heart problems linked to sudden cardiac death, experts have warned.
New research has found just two cans of Monster or four cans of Red Bull is enough to raise the risk of developing a life-threatening abnormal heartbeat.
1 Energy drinks ‘increase your risk of sudden cardiac death’, experts warnCredit: Alamy
Certain types of arrhythmia – or abnormal heart beat – can cause sudden cardiac death, which kills 100,000 people in the UK every year, according to the NHS.
The new study analysing the impact of energy drinks on heart function, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, involved 34 healthy people aged between 18 and 40.
They were randomly assigned to drink 900ml from one of two commercially available caffeinated energy drinks or a placebo on three separate days.
The drinks were consumed within a 60-minute period – but no faster than one 450ml bottle in half an hour.
Both energy drinks tested contained between 304 and 320mg of caffeine per 32 fl oz, or 900ml.
Researchers measured the electrical activity of the participants’ hearts by electrocardiogram, which records the way the heart is beating, as well as blood pressure.
The measurements were taken at the start of the experiment and then every 30 minutes for four hours after the drinks were consumed.
Heart rhythm ‘disturbed’
They found the heart rhythm of participants who had consumed either type of energy drink had been affected in some way.
Researchers used a measurement known as the QT interval, which records the time it takes ventricles in the heart to prepare to generate a beat again.
If this time interval is either too short or too long, it can cause the heart to beat abnormally, which can be life-threatening, the experts warned.
Their results showed that the participants’ QT interval was 6 milliseconds or 7.7 milliseconds higher at 4 hours compared to placebo drinkers.
The public should be aware of the impact of energy drinks on their body especially if they have other underlying health conditionsDr Sachin A. Shalead author
Lead author Dr Sachin A. Sha, of the University of the Pacific in California, said: “We found an association between consuming energy drinks and changes in QT intervals and blood pressure that cannot be attributed to caffeine.
“We urgently need to investigate the particular ingredient or combination of ingredients in different types of energy drinks that might explain the findings seen in our clinical trial.”
The study is the largest controlled study of the effects of energy drinks on the heart and blood pressure in young healthy volunteers.
However, it only assessed the short-term effects and evaluated the outcome of drinking just energy drinks alone.
What is an abnormal heart rhythm and how can it cause sudden cardiac death?
An abnormal heart rhythm – also called an arrhythmia – means your heart is beating too fast, too slow, or with an irregular pattern.
Your heart has an electrical system that tells it when to beat and pump blood around your body.
If there is a problem with this system you may experience an abnormal heart rhythm.
There are many different types of abnormal heart rhythm. What type you have depends on where in your heart the electrical impulse starts, and if it causes your heart to beat too fast, or too slowly.
The most common abnormal rhythm is atrial fibrillation, an irregular, or fast heart rhythm. Other abnormal heart rhythms include:
fast heart rhythms such as supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), sinus tachycardia (ST) and ventricular tachycardia (VT) are known as tachycardias and are faster than 90 beats per minute
bradycardias such as heart block are slow abnormal heart rhythms, when your heart beat is 60 beats per minute or below
atrial flutter is typically a very fast, irregular heart rhythm
tachybrady syndrome (sick sinus syndrome) includes periods of very fast or slow heart beats
ventricular fibrillation (VF), is an abnormal heart rhythm that’s so fast a pulse cannot be identified and is an emergency situation
According to the Heart Rhythm Alliance, ventricular tachycardia (VT) can cause sudden cardiac arrest – a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating due to a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system.
There is rarely a warning and the patient always loses consciousness, they say.
Source: British Heart Foundation
It’s not uncommon for them to be consumed in combination with other substances, such as alcohol.
Dr Shah added: “The public should be aware of the impact of energy drinks on their body especially if they have other underlying health conditions.
“Healthcare professionals should advise certain patient populations, for example, people with underlying congenital or acquired long QT syndrome or high blood pressure, to limit or monitor their consumption.”
Earlier this month, scientists warned that guzzling just on energy drink is enough to cause heart problems – with effects kicking in after just 90 minutes.
Experts found that drinking Red Bull and Monster could cause your blood vessels to narrow, which increases the risk of blockages and cause heart attacks and strokes.
The findings echo past studies, which have warned young people to steer clear of the drinks.
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Gavin Partington, of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: “The European Food Safety Authority confirms the safety of energy drinks and their ingredients.
“Our members do not market or promote energy drinks to under 16s, nor do they sample products with this age group.
“In addition, energy drinks carry an advisory note stating ‘Not recommended for children’.”
Will there be an energy drink ban in the UK and how old do you need to be to buy Red Bull and Monster?
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