Study: Could energy drinks be harmful to heart health?

·2-min read
An American study highlights energy drinks' potentially harmful effects on the heart.

Often consumed to boost physical and mental performances, particularly at parties and other events, energy drinks may not always be the best choice for your health. A new study from the US highlights the adverse effects some energy drinks may have on the heart, as findings suggest they could potentially contribute to serious heart conditions.

A research team led by a Texas A&M University professor studied energy drinks -- global sales of which were estimated at US$53 billion in 2018 -- to determine potential health risks for consumers. To do so, they evaluated 17 widely available brands then treated cardiomyocytes -- human heart cells grown in a laboratory -- with each drink. They then studied the composition of the drinks to identify which ingredients could be the most harmful.

Published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology , the study found that cardiomyocytes exposed to certain energy drinks -- not to be confused with sports drinks -- showed an increased beat rate and other factors affecting cardiac function. And that's not all, because the researchers state that consumption of these drinks, when placed in the context of the human body, has been linked to "improper beating of the heart," cardiomyopathy, increased blood pressure and other heart conditions.

"Because the consumption of these beverages is not regulated and they are widely accessible over the counter to all age groups, the potential for adverse health effects of these products is a subject of concern and needed research. Indeed, the consumption of energy drinks has been associated with a wide range of adverse health effects in humans, many of them are concerning the effects on the heart," explains Dr. Ivan Rusyn, who led the study.

While they identified certain ingredients that could prove particularly harmful to cardiac function, the scientists consider that more research is needed on the ingredients to establish whether -- or not -- they are safe to consume, especially by individuals with pre-existing health conditions.

Note that the researchers don't mention any level of consumption of these drinks. Previous research has reported harmful effects in cases of excessive consumption of energy drinks, while low to moderate consumption may present little or no danger. This is therefore a factor that will also have to be determined in the future.

"We ... hope that the Food and Drug Administration takes a closer look at whether these beverages may need to be carefully reviewed with respect to possible labeling of their adverse health effects, and whether certain age groups and susceptible sub-populations should be advised against consumption of these beverages," the researcher concludes.