Energy drinks can cause heart problems, according to research coming out of Europe.
Professor Milou-Daniel Drici from France says the so-called energy drinks are popular in dance clubs and during physical exercise, with people sometimes consuming a number of drinks one after the other.
“This situation can lead to a number of adverse conditions including angina, cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and even sudden death,” he told the congress of the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Barcelona, Spain.
About 96% of the drinks contain caffeine, with a typical 0.25 litre can holding the same amount of caffeine as two espressos.
Caffeine leads to a massive release of calcium within cardiac cells. This can cause arrhythmias, but also has effects on the heart’s abilities to contract and to use oxygen.
About 52% of the drinks contain taurine, 33% have glucuronolactone and two-thirds contain vitamins.
In Australia, the NSW Food Authority finds that 77% of the drinks contain more than the amount of caffeine permitted by the Food Standards Code.
The study analysed adverse events reported to the agency between 2009 and 2012. Some 15 specialists including cardiologists, psychiatrists, neurologists and physiologists contributed to the investigation. The findings were compared to published data in the scientific literature.
The researchers found that consumption of energy drinks in France increased by 30% between 2009 and 2011 up to more than 30 million litres. The leading brand made up 40% of energy drinks consumed. Two-thirds of drinks were consumed away from home.
During the two year period 257 cases were reported to the agency, of which 212 provided sufficient information for food and drug safety evaluation.
The experts found that 95 of the reported adverse events had cardiovascular symptoms, 74 psychiatric, and 57 neurological, sometimes overlapping.
Cardiac arrests and sudden or unexplained deaths occurred at least in 8 cases, while 46 people had heart rhythm disorders, 13 had angina and 3 had hypertension.
Dr Drici says:
“We found that ‘caffeine syndrome’ was the most common problem, occurring in 60 people. It is characterised by a fast heart rate (called tachycardia), tremor, anxiety and headache.”
Dr Drici says the general public needs to know these drinks have absolutely no place during or after physical exercise, as compared with other drinks designed for that purpose.
“When used in long alcoholic cocktails, the caffeine in energy drinks enables young people in dance clubs or elsewhere to overcome the unwanted effects of alcohol, leading to an even greater intake of caffeine,” he says.
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