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Energy drinks can make the heart beat harder, not faster

Energy drinks, popular among teenagers and young adults and containing large amounts of caffeine and taurine, induced stronger contractions of the heart, an hour after consuming such drinks.

By Ananth Baliga

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Energy drinks packed with caffeine and taurine have been shown to change the way the heart beats.

Researchers presented findings of a study at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, which shows that children and adults with certain health conditions should avoid drinking such beverages as they induced more forceful contractions of the heart.

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"Until now, we haven't known exactly what effect these energy drinks have on the function of the heart," said radiology resident Jonas Dörner, M.D., at the University of Bonn, Germany. "There are concerns about the products' potential adverse side effects on heart function, especially in adolescents and young adults, but there is little or no regulation of energy drink sales."

The study included 18 healthy individuals, 15 men and 3 women, with an average age of 27.5 years. Participants each underwent a cardiac MRI, then a second MRI one hour after being given an energy drink.

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Compared to baseline images, after consuming the energy drinks participants exhibited increased strain in the left ventricle of their heart, which receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it to the aorta, which pumps it to the rest of the body.

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Though the left ventricle displayed higher contractility, researchers found no change in participants' heart rates, blood pressure or quantity of blood ejected from the left ventricle compared with baseline images.

"We don't know exactly how or if this greater contractility of the heart impacts daily activities or athletic performance," Dr. Dörner said. "We need additional studies to understand this mechanism and to determine how long the effect of the energy drink lasts."

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According to a latest Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report, between 2007 and 2011 the number of energy drink-related emergency room visits doubled from 10,068 to 20,783. Most of these patients were identified in the 18-25 age range, followed by those aged 26-39.

"We've shown that energy drink consumption has a short-term impact on cardiac contractility," Dr. Dörner said. "Further studies are needed to evaluate the impact of long-term energy drink consumption and the effect of such drinks on individuals with heart disease."

[Radiological Society of North America]

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