RSNA 2013: Energy drinks alter heart function

by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor | December 02, 2013
Dr. Jonas Dörner
It's no secret that energy drinks can keep you partying until the wee hours of the morning. But up until now, the effects of these drinks on the body have not been studied extensively.

In light of the booming energy drink industry, which is largely left unregulated, researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany wanted to look at the impact of such drinks on the heart. They were able to measure contraction rates in the left ventricle, which is critical in pumping blood to the aorta, using MRI. Heart rate and blood pressure were recorded throughout the investigation.

They found that healthy adults who consume energy drinks high in caffeine and the amino acid taurine had significantly increased heart contraction one hour later.
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Specifically, they found a 7 percent increase in peak systolic strain and a 6 percent increase in peak systolic strain rate, which is the peak systolic strain rate in relation to time.

Researchers also wanted to see if there were the same results with participants consuming products that only contained caffeine — in the same amount as the energy drinks.

"In contrast to the energy drink group, we did not find a significant change in parameters for left ventricular function, so no significant change," said lead author of the study, Dr. Jonas Dörner.

He said a possible explanation could be the presence of taurine, which has been shown to increase the release of calcium in mice.

Eighteen volunteers, mostly in their 20s, participated in the study. More research is needed, however, on how altered heart function from energy drinks affects daily life and athletic ability. Also, the long term effects of energy drink consumption is still unknown.

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