Dr. Campbell: New study highlights dangerous effects of energy drinks

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Energy drinks can be found almost everywhere these days and most of these often contain high amounts of caffeine and other proprietary ingredients.


Emergency room visits directly attributable to these drinks are on the rise. Now a new study shows that these energy drinks may have a significant negative effect on both blood pressure and your heart rhythm.

1. Tell us about these energy drinks: What exactly is in them?

Energy drinks in the United States are a billion dollar industry today. There are nearly 500 different brands on the market today. These drinks—such as Monster and Red Bull, for example—contain large amounts of caffeine as well as other ingredients such as B vitamins and taurine. Most contain the same amount of caffeine as found in four cups of coffee—all in one drink.

2. What did this study show?

Researchers compared those drinking caffeine with those drinking an energy drink. They measured the participants’ blood pressure and used an electrocardiogram (often called an EKG) to measure heart electrical activity for 24 hours after the subjects consumed the drinks.

An ECG change known as QTc prolongation and sometimes associated with life-threatening heart rhythm disorders was seen after drinking the energy drink, but not after drinking caffeine alone. In addition, blood pressure increased by close to five points after drinking the energy drink, but by just under one point after drinking the caffeine beverage. Blood pressure also remained elevated six hours later in those who had energy drinks.

3. What are your recommendations when it comes to energy drinks?

I believe these should be avoided. They have no nutritional value. For the healthy individual, they are probably OK. However, for those with underlying heart disease—they could pose significant risk. Mixing energy drinks with alcohol has been shown to significantly increase negative side effects and ER visits. We really need more studies to better evaluate the effects of the other (non-caffeine) ingredients in these drinks.

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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