By Bunmi Sofola

A recent study has suggested that four cans of energy drink can trigger potentially dangerous ‘pauses’ between heart heats. A research found consuming the sugar and caffeine-packed drinks resulted in abnormal changes in blood pressure and heart rhythm within two hours.

The US study concluded that drinking just under a litre of an unnamed but commercially-available energy drink—around four ml cans—resulted in profound changes to the heart’s electricity activity.

The 946 ml contained 108g of sugar-roughly 27 teaspoons—and 320mg of caffeine, close to the recommended daily limit, along with ‘natural substances such as taurine and carnitine. The impact on the heart was significantly greater than consuming drinks that contained caffein but

no added sugar. Researcher Dr. Emily Fletcher, of the US Air Force Medical Centre in Trans, California, said she started the project after finding out 75 per cent of the base’s military personnel had consumed energy drinks.

Her team, whose findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, tracked 18 volunteers randomly divided into two groups. The first received 946ml of the market energy drink, while the second was given a beverage containing 320mg of caffeine, water and fruit juice but no added sugar. Researchers measured the volunteer’s blood pressure and the electrical activity of their hearts before the study, and at one, two, four, six and 24 hours after consuming the drinks.

They found that, when compared to the second group, those given the energy drink were showing signs of their hearts’ ‘pausing’ for an extra ten milliseconds between beats. Dr. fletcher said: “If this time interval…is either too short or too long, it can cause the heart to beat abnormally.

The resulting arrhythmia can be life-threatening. Those who consumed the energy drink still had a mildly elevated blood pressure after six hours. This suggests that ingredients other than caffeine may have some blood pressure altering effects but this needs further evaluation.”

Gavin parting ton, of industry body of the British Caffeine industry Association, said: “Caffeine in energy drinks is no different to caffeine in coffee, so these findings are somewhat odd. The European food Safety Authority latest opinion confirms the safety of energy drinks and therefore does not provide any scientific justification to treat energy drinks any different to the main contributors to daily caffein intake including tea, coffee and chocolate.”


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