Energy drinks are not the healthiest of drinks, there's no doubt about that, but a new study suggests that the energy drink side effects might be even more serious than previously thought. A new study made at University of Bonn, Germany studied the effect of energy drinks on heart function using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging. For the study, researchers chose 15 healthy men and three healthy women. The average age of the group was 27.5, one of the groups that's very likely to reach for such beverages. Researchers studied the participants' heart rates an hour before and an hour after consuming the energy drinks which contained both taurine (400 mg/100 ml) and caffeine (32 mg/100 ml).
The researchers found there was an increase in the participants' left ventricle, which is responsible for sending oxygenated blood to the aorta which then distributes it to the rest of the body. No significant changes were found for blood pressure levels or in the amount of blood pumped. It is still unclear how these changes affect the heart over the long term. Researcher and radiology resident Jonas Dörner, M.D. stated that: “We’ve shown that energy drink consumption has a short-term impact on cardiac contractility. Further studies are needed to evaluate the impact of long-term energy drink consumption and the effect of such drinks on individuals with heart disease.”
Dr. Dörner also highlighted other known side effects of energy drinks, which are largely unregulated: "Usually energy drinks contain taurine and caffeine as their main pharmacological ingredients. The amount of caffeine is up to three times higher than in other caffeinated beverages like coffee or cola. There are many side effects known to be associated with a high intake of caffeine, including rapid heart rate, palpitations, rise in blood pressure and, in the most severe cases, seizures or sudden death."
These are some of the reasons why people with cardiac arrhythmias are advised to avoid consuming energy drinks. Researchers believe they might provoke arrhythmias. Also, Dr. Dörner stated that further studies need to be made to determine the long term effects of mixing these drinks with alcohol.