Energy drinks: Here’s what they do to your heart

Energy drinks: Here’s what they do to your heart
It is estimated that about 30% of teenagers between the ages of 12 through 17 years in the United States consume energy drinks on a regular basis. (Source: Min An from Pexels)

(Gray News) – Millions of Americans consume energy drinks to give them an added boost, but experts say their effects may not be good for you or your heart.

A study published this week in the Journal of the American Heart Association found energy drinks raise your blood pressure, but they also mildly change the heart’s electrical activity.

The report tracked nearly three dozen 20-somethings who consumed 32 ounces of an energy drink and then had their vital statistics measured.

Energy drinks are a booming business with the market expected to reach $61 billion by 2021.

It is estimated that about 30% of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 years in the U.S. consume energy drinks on a regular basis, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has long taken the stance that kids should not consume energy drinks, saying “these products contain substances that could be harmful to children.”

“There is a lot of confusion about sports drinks and energy drinks, and adolescents are often unaware of the differences in these products,” said Marcie Beth Schneider, the co-author of the report “Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate?"

“Some kids are drinking energy drinks – containing large amounts of caffeine – when their goal is simply to rehydrate after exercise. This means they are ingesting large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, which can be dangerous,” she said.

Caffeine is the primary ingredient in energy drinks, but there many others. When combined, these ingredients may enhance their effects.

Typical energy drinks also include:

  • Guarana – a South American plant with a caffeine compound called guaranine
  • Sugars – in excess can cause obesity and dental problems
  • Taurine – an amino acid touted to improve athletic performance
  • Ginseng, B vitamins and other additives – not included in great enough amounts to offer benefits

Because energy drinks are unregulated, experts are concerned.

Up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults, according to the Mayo Clinic.

That's roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two "energy shot" drinks. The actual caffeine content varies widely, especially with energy drinks.

Although caffeine use may be safe for adults, it's not a good idea for children, the Mayo Clinic advises. Adolescents should limit caffeine consumption.

The New American Heart Association report aligns with a 2014 study from the World Health Organization.

“As energy drink sales are rarely regulated by age, unlike alcohol and tobacco, and there is a proven potential negative effect on children, there is the potential for a significant public health problem in the future,” the report said.

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