Energy drinks have been linked to a higher risk of sudden cardiac death and increased blood pressure among young people who may be unaware they have a common heart condition.
A joint study from the University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA) found people with a condition known as Long GT Syndrome experienced such significant changes to their heart rates, they were at risk of “sudden cardiac death”.
The study also found people with the cardiac rhythm disorder, which affects about one in every 2,000 people, are at risk of significant increases in blood pressure after consuming just one of the highly caffeinated drinks.
“Patients had a significant increase in their blood pressure of more than 10 per cent after the energy drinks, which was not seen in the control group,” RPA cardiologist Dr Belinda Gray said.
“These drinks are not as safe as people think that they are.”
Dr Gray said people had to be warned because many would not be aware they had the condition, particularly young people.
“That’s the group that these [energy] drinks are most heavily marketed towards,” she said.
‘Mixing alcohol with energy drinks common’
Study participant Barbara-Anne Tane, 34, has had Long QT Syndrome since she was 16.
She said mixing alcohol with energy drinks used to be a common thing for her to do when she went out with friends.
“If it wasn’t V it was Red Bull,” she said.
“Everybody was drinking them.”
At the time, Ms Tane said she was unaware of any health risks the energy drinks could pose.
“Now that they’ve (energy drinks) been around for years, they’re now a staple in many people’s diets,” she said.
“The study is really good, to put out [to people] what the associated risks are with energy drinks.”
Ms Tane said she stopped consuming energy drinks when she became concerned about possible health affects, particularly because of her heart condition.
But she said she was against discouraging other people including her friends from doing the same thing.
“For myself it’s more inherent because I have Long QT,” she said.
“But it’s up to the individual. Myself and my friends have had discussions about it.”
Outcomes of study ‘far from conclusive’: Beverage Council
The Beverage Council of Australia released a statement questioning the results of the study which it described as limiting.
“It is important to note that the results of this study are far from conclusive,” the statement said.
“In fact, according to the study, 87.5 per cent of respondents reported no adverse effects.
“Energy drinks have been repeatedly tested and found to be safe by countless food safety authorities throughout the world.
“This study was extremely small with only 24 participants, who were required to act as their own control, which added to the limitations of the findings.”
Dr Gray said the energy drink dosages given to people in the study were restricted for ethical reasons, but conclusions about the affects of energy drinks could still be drawn from the results.
“For ethical reasons, we could only give patients in this study low doses of energy drinks but, the reality is, many young people will consume four or more energy drinks with alcohol in one evening. These drinks are widely available to all young people.”
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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