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Energy drinks may cause serious heart problems, study shows

Renata Sago May 30, 2019
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Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Energy drinks are like liquid candy with a kick. They’re sweet and fizzy and quite stimulating, but a study from the Journal of the American Heart Association says drinkers, beware.

Ingredients including very high levels of caffeine, guarana and taurine may spike blood pressure and cause potentially life-threatening electrical malfunctions in the heart.

“Each individual ingredient on its own may generally be considered as safe, but when you put them together, what happens is where the question remains,” said Sachin Shah, professor of pharmacy at the University of the Pacific and a co-author of the study.

Researchers predict the energy drink market will reach $61 billion by 2021, fueled by consumers like 35-year-old Antoine Smith, who started downing energy drinks while in college eight years ago. Now that he is raising a toddler, they’re part of his routine.

“I have to consume at least six to eight within a day,” he said.

Smith drinks a mix of brands, including Monster Energy, Red Bull, and Full Throttle.

“I have an addiction,” he said, laughing. “It’s sad. I’m laughing about it, but it’s sad.”

Several lawsuits have tried to link energy drinks to health issues and cardiac deaths without success. In a statement, the American Beverage Association said energy drinks meet federal safety rules and already display advisories for consumers who may be at an elevated risk, like children and pregnant women.

But Laura MacCleery with the Center for Science in the Public Interest said one problem is the way the beverage companies are allowed to compare caffeine levels when seeking Food and Drug Administration approval.

“The companies use widely varying assumptions about how much caffeine we consume in other sources,” she said.

In 2014, MacCleery’s group asked the FDA to slap an explicit warning label on energy drinks, but the agency hasn’t done so yet. In the meantime, new energy drinks have rolled out, boasting more natural ingredients.

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