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Energy drinks are linked to sudden cardiac arrest

A new study suggests that consumption of energy drinks may be linked to sudden cardiac arrest.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic warn that consuming these drinks, which often contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants, can be dangerous for people with genetic heart disease.

For the study, the team examined 144 patients who had survived sudden cardiac arrest. Seven patients in this group had consumed one or more energy drinks shortly before the cardiac arrest.

The researchers also examined the type of heart problem the patients had and the conditions under which the event occurred.

Although the study could not prove that consuming energy drinks directly causes cardiac arrest, the scientists warn that people – especially those with a genetic predisposition to heart problems – should consume them only in moderation.

A stock photo shows energy drinks in a refrigerator. The drinks contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulant ingredients that can be dangerous for people with genetic heart problems.

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The study's lead researcher, Michael J. Ackerman, a genetic cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, said in a statement: “Although the relative risk is small and the absolute risk of sudden death after consuming an energy drink is even lower, patients with a known genetic heart disease that predisposes to sudden death should weigh the risks and benefits of consuming such beverages.”

However, Ackerman added that a number of other factors besides energy drinks may have contributed to the sudden cardiac arrests.

“Although there appeared to be a temporal association between the consumption of energy drinks and the sudden cardiac arrest of the seven patients, countless possible 'causing factors' emerged that could also have contributed to a genetically determined cardiac arrhythmia, such as lack of sleep, dehydration, diet or extreme fasting, concomitant use of QT-prolonging medications, or the postpartum period,” he said.

“The unusual consumption of energy drinks, combined with other variables, most likely created a 'perfect storm' of risk factors that led to sudden cardiac arrest in these patients.”

The energy drink market has grown rapidly in the United States, with sales increasing 73 percent between 2018 and 2023, according to Mintel. However, health experts have raised concerns about the risks of consuming drinks that contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulant ingredients such as taurine and guarana.

A standard 230 ml cup of coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine. The caffeine content of a single serving of energy drink, however, can be up to 300 mg.

Energy drinks are very popular among children and adolescents, who may be at greater risk of health problems due to their smaller body size and lower tolerance to stimulants.

“Energy drinks are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so research into the effects of these drinks on our patients is of utmost importance,” Ackerman said.

“It has been postulated that the highly stimulatory and unregulated ingredients alter heart rate, blood pressure, cardiac contractility and cardiac repolarization in a potentially proarrhythmic manner.”

The full results of the study were published in the journal Heart Rhythm.

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