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Energy drinks linked to serious heart problems

High caffeine levels in some energy drinks  are dangerous.
High caffeine levels in some energy drinks are dangerous.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Energy drinks can cause dangerous heart problems and even death, according to research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress on Aug. 31. French researchers said the cardiovascular problems associated with energy drinks include angina, heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia and sudden death. This research, presented to the cardiologists’ meeting in Spain, is based on a review of adverse event reports submitted to the French agency for food safety, A.N.S.E.S.

One researcher, Professor Milou-Daniel Drici, warned of the dangerously high level of caffeine in some energy drinks. He explained that large amounts of caffeine cause “a massive release of calcium within cardiac cells.” This calcium release can cause irregular heartbeats and other potentially serious heart problems.

Dr Drici expressed concern about how the public uses energy drinks especially with alcohol and physical exercise. He noted that in these situations people commonly drink several energy drinks creating a potentially dangerous situation.

“The general public need to know that so-called ‘energy drinks’ have absolutely no place during or after physical exercise, as compared with other drinks designed for that purpose. When used in long alcoholic cocktails, the caffeine in ‘energy drinks’ enables young people in dance clubs or elsewhere to overcome the unwanted effects of alcohol, leading to an even greater intake of caffeine, ” said Drici.

In the U.S., over 270 adverse event reports relating to energy drinks were filed with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDAs) Adverse Event Reporting System, according to Bloomberg View. Thirty-four of these adverse events resulted in deaths. In March 2013, a group of doctors and other professionals wrote to the FDA asking that these drinks be regulated, reports the New York Times. The doctors asked the FDA to regulate the drinks because “there is evidence in the published scientific literature that the caffeine levels in energy drinks pose serious potential health risks, including increased risk for serious injury or even death." Despite the number of adverse events and calls for regulations by doctors, energy drinks are not regulated in the US.

Doernbecher Children's Hospital and Intelihealth have information and advice for parents about energy drinks and their use by children and young adults. The Mayo Clinic's website has several articles with information on energy drinks and their ingredients.


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