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Study shows energy drinks 'significantly increased' heart contractions

Researchers measured heart contractions before and after volunteers consumed a single energy drink

A new study has showed that energy drinks can affect the heart beats of even healthy adults hours after consumption.

Test subjects were monitored using an MRI scanner after drinking the heavily caffeinated beverages, with researchers from the University of Bonn reporting the drinks “significantly increased” heart contraction rates.

"Until now, we haven't known exactly what effect these energy drinks have on the function of the heart," said Dr. Jonas Dörner, one of the study’s authors. “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.”

"Usually energy drinks contain taurine and caffeine as their main pharmacological ingredients. The amount of caffeine is up to three times higher than in other caffeinated beverages like coffee or cola.”

Dörner also noted that the side-effects of consuming large amounts of caffeine could include “a rapid heart rate, palpitations, rise in blood pressure and, in the most severe cases, seizures or sudden death”.

The recent study looked at 15 healthy men and three healthy women with an average age of 27.5 years. MRI scans were taken of the volunteers before and after consuming a single energy drink containing 400 mg/100 ml taurine and 32 mg/100 ml caffeine.

The scans showed that after consuming the drink the volunteers’ there were peak systolic strain rates in the heart’s left ventricle. This is one of the four chambers of the heart, and the part of the organ that receives oxygenated blood from the lungs, before passing it on to the left aorta to distribute it to the rest of the body.

"We've shown that energy drink consumption has a short-term impact on cardiac contractility,” said Dr Dörner. "We don't know exactly how or if this greater contractility of the heart impacts daily activities or athletic performance."

The British Soft Drinks Association notes that whilst "caffeine soft drinks and their ingredients have been carefully studied by the regulatory authorities and have been recognised as safe," they still recommend that the drinks "should not be consumed by children."