Energy drinks linked to sudden cardiac arrest

Doctors warn of cardiac risk of energy drinks.


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Energy drinks are becoming more popular, especially among teenagers and young adults, because they boost energy and quickly enhance mental alertness. However, this growing trend has raised significant health concerns, particularly regarding the potential link between energy drink consumption and sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

A study published in Heart Rhythm by the Mayo Clinic examined the potential dangers of energy drinks for patients with genetic heart diseases. The study, which looked at 144 sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) survivors, found that seven of them (5%) had consumed energy drinks shortly before their cardiac events. While the study did not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship, it does suggest caution in energy drink consumption.

Dr. Michael J. Ackerman, a renowned genetic cardiologist and the lead investigator at the Mayo Clinic, has been investigating the growing concern over the effects of unregulated ingredients in energy drinks. He has stressed the importance of researching these effects since the FDA does not regulate them. Ackerman advises moderation in energy drinks, especially for those with heart conditions.

Energy drinks contain 80 to 300 mg of caffeine per serving, compared to 100 mg in an 8-ounce cup of coffee. They also have other stimulants like taurine and guarana, which the FDA does not regulate. These ingredients may affect heart rate, blood pressure, and cardiac function, possibly leading to arrhythmias.

Researchers examined energy drink consumption among sudden cardiac arrest survivors, considering factors like exercise and stress linked to genetic heart disease.

Dr. Michael Ackerman explained that while energy drinks were consumed before the cardiac events in seven patients, other factors like sleep deprivation, dehydration, dieting, QT-prolonging drugs, and the postpartum period might have contributed. These factors likely combined to create a “perfect storm,” leading to sudden cardiac arrest.

Dr. Peter Schwartz emphasized that although there’s no definitive proof that energy drinks cause life-threatening arrhythmias, the potential risk warrants caution. He stressed the importance of clinical experience, understanding heart conditions, and common sense in recognizing potential dangers.

As energy drinks continue to grow in popularity, it is crucial to raise awareness about their potential health risks, especially for individuals with preexisting heart conditions.

Further research is needed to fully understand the extent of these risks and develop appropriate guidelines for safe consumption. In the meantime, caution is advised for all consumers, particularly those with genetic heart diseases, to minimize the potential dangers associated with energy drink consumption.

MD, PhD, Genetic Cardiologist at Mayo Clinic and Director of the Mayo Clinic Windland Smith Rice Sudden Death Genomics Laboratory in Rochester, MN, said, “Although the relative risk is small and the absolute risk of sudden death after consuming an energy drink is even smaller, patients with a known sudden death predisposing genetic heart disease should weigh the risks and benefits of consuming such drinks in the balance.”

Journal reference:

  1. Katherine A. Martinez, Sahej Bains etal., Sudden cardiac arrest occurs in temporal proximity to consumption of energy drinks. Heart Rhythm. DOI: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2024.02.018.