Water is the only “energy drink” I’ll ever need. And as a doctor, it’s the only one I’ll ever recommend. (I don’t have a problem with coffee—but it’s not a substitute for a good night’s sleep.)
Clearly, though, I’m in the minority. Because the market is flooded with beverages designed to give you a buzz by any means possible—caffeine, sugar, vitamins, you name it.
You might assume these “energy drinks” are safe, or even “healthy.” After all, how could companies sell them if they weren’t? But if you know anything about Big Food by now, then you know this kind of assumption is a big mistake.
And according to one new study, it might even be a deadly one.
A deadly disruption to your heart
Let’s start with this startling fact: Drinking a 32 ounce energy drink over a short period of time increases blood pressure and raises your risk of heart rhythm disturbances.
This is the conclusion of a recent study of 34 healthy volunteers, between 18 and 40 years old.
Researchers randomly assigned subjects to drink either an energy drink or a placebo drink on three separate occasions. The energy drinks were commercially available and caffeinated—containing anywhere between 304 to 320 mg of caffeine per 32 ounces.
For reference, a 20-ounce “Venti” Starbucks coffee can contain as much as 475 mg of caffeine. So we’re not talking about a lot here—certainly not amounts that you would expect to trigger heart problems.
But of course, the energy drinks contained other ingredients, too. Like the amino acid taurine, B-vitamins, or glucuronolactone. So you can probably guess where this is going…
Ultimately, researchers found that participants who consumed energy drinks experienced changes in QT intervals—that is, the amount of time between heartbeats. These changes can contribute to abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia). And needless to say, the condition can be life-threatening.
But results also showed significant elevations in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure with energy drink consumption. By as much as 5 mmHg, in fact—which comes with its own set of very real risks to your heart.
Finger pointing instead of problem solving
Now… here’s where researchers start to lose me: “We found an association between consuming energy drinks and changes in QT intervals and blood pressure that cannot be attributed to caffeine.”
I’d like to know why they’re so sure of this…
It may well be that there’s more behind this risk than simple caffeine. But they clearly can’t resist an opportunity to throw the supplement industry under the bus yet again. And there are much more important considerations on the table here, in my opinion.
Like the fact that some 30 percent of American teens between the ages of 12 and 17 consume such energy drinks regularly—a trend that has been linked to higher rates of Emergency Room visits, and even death.
And for what reason??? I wasn’t even allowed to drink caffeinated beverages until I was on my own in college. And to this day, I still don’t partake.
Kids can’t be trusted to drink anything responsibly. So is it any wonder that they’re abusing these beverages, or mixing them with other substances that could be increasing the risk? (Like alcohol, for starters.)
Unfortunately, it appears as though the researchers don’t care to concern themselves with these questions… choosing instead to close the book with a blanket warning about supplement safety and a recommendation for folks with heart defects to steer clear.
Look, I’m not about to sit here and defend the energy drink business. But for once, I’d like to see a study on the risks of these beverages that doesn’t devolve into an attack on my business, built on empty accusations and assumptions.
The bottom line is this: There are a million good reasons why you shouldn’t be consuming this garbage. So, stick with water instead.
P.S. Simply put, heart health is a very real issue that needs more awareness. In fact, I devoted a lengthy article on ways to keep your heart strong and healthy in the February issue of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter (“FEBRUARY’S SPOTLIGHT: It’s American Heart Month!”). Subscribers have access to this and all of my past content. So if you haven’t already, consider signing up today!
“Energy drinks may increase risk of heart function abnormalities and blood pressure changes.” Science Daily, 05/29/2019. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190529084823.htm)