Healthy adults who consume energy drinks experience significant spikes of heart contract rates per hour after intake, which may lead to fatal heartbeat problems, according to a study performed by German researchers who presented their findings at the 2013 annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.
The researchers investigated the effect of energy drinks high in caffeine and taurine, like Red Bull, by using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) on a group of healthy volunteers to show the structure of the heart and how it functions during consumption of energy drinks.
In the study, 15 male and three female participants with an average age of 27.5 were examined by undergoing a CMR performed on a whole-body scanner before, and one hour after drinking an energy drink. These drinks contained taurine (400mg/100ml) and caffeine (32mg/100ml). The researchers looked at how the left ventricle — the heart chamber that pumps oxygenated blood out of the heart and to the rest of the body — was functioning by measuring its peak strain and peak strain rate during heart contraction and dilation. In addition, the participants’ heart rate and blood pressure were also recorded in the study.
The researchers noted an increase in peak heart contractions, in the heart’s left ventricle per hour after the participants had consumed the drinks. The energy drink did not, however, show a significant effect on the amount of blood being ejected from the left ventricle, heart rate, or blood. The short-term impact on heart contractions caused by energy drinks was affirmed in the small study.
“We’ve shown that energy drink consumption has a short-term impact on cardiac contractility,” said Dr. Jonas Dörner, study researcher of the University of Bonn in Germany. “We don’t know exactly how or if this greater contractility of the heart impacts daily activities or athletic performance.”
The researchers say that further studies need to be done to accurately assess the long-term effects of energy drink consumption as well as any other possible effects these drinks may have on people with a history of heart disease.