If your go-to jolt of energy comes from a convenience store canned drink, you might want to think again. New research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that energy drinks can mess with your body more than other caffeinated beverages like soda or coffee.
The small study focused on the effects of energy drinks vs. coffee on the heart. The results were concerning.
Scientists gave half of the participants a common commercially-available energy drink. The drink had four ounces of sugar as well as 320 milligrams of caffeine — the same as drinking about four cups of coffee. The other half of the volunteers received a carbonated soda-like beverage with the same about of caffeine, mixed with lime juice, cherry syrup.
Over the next 24 hours, researchers measured the participants’ blood pressure and heart activity. After six days, the participants were given the other beverage.
Drinking either beverage was shown to increase blood pressure, but those who drank the energy drink had those levels stay elevated for a much long period of time. An increased heart rate along doesn’t spell trouble, but for people with heart conditions, this is concerning.
Researchers also found that the heart beat is affected in a way that is associated with “increased risk for fatal arrhythmias.” Other caffeinated drinks don’t post the same danger.
“What the growing body of evidence is pointing to is that there are effects on the heart that are different than caffeine along,” said one author of the study, Emily Fletcher of the David Grant U.S.A.F. Medical Center in California. “Consumers should be aware that drinking an energy drink is not the same as drinking coffee or soda.”
“There is no question that energy drinks aren’t the best choice for your health, primarily due to the added sugar,” said Jaclyn London, R.D., Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. “Sugar in beverage form is readily digested, absorbed and taken up in the bloodstream.”
Manufacturers and fans of energy drinks claim they are as safe as a can of cola, but there is little evidence to support this claim. There are more than 500 different energy drink products on the market today, and with their increased popularity has come an increase in energy-related medical emergencies and even death.
Other studies will be needed to evaluate the safety of the ingredients in energy drinks. Some common ingredients, including taurine and guarani, have not yet been FDA-approved.
But the study doesn’t say you need to stay away from caffeine altogether. Coffee and unsweetened tea are loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients that can be beneficial to your body.
(h/t NBC News)