Energy drinks jolt heart

New analysis of existing research presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association suggests that consuming energy drinks may adversely affect the heart.

What will you do in the next five hours? Worry about your heart if you've just pounded an energy drink. The ubiquitous drinks may mess with your ticker, according to research presented last week at heart headquarters.

Researchers analyzed data from seven previously published studies to determine how consuming energy drinks might impact heart health. They found that the drinks may increase blood pressure and disturb the heart's rhythm. The information was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions in New Orleans, which presumably did not offer the potions at their luncheon.

In one section of the analysis, researchers checked the QT interval of 93 people who had just chugged one to three cans of energy drinks. The QT interval is a measure of the heart's rhythm on an electrocardiogram. When it's prolonged, it can cause serious irregular heartbeats or sudden cardiac death, according to the American Heart Association release. The QT interval of the energy drink consumers was 10 milliseconds longer.

“QT prolongation is associated with life-threatening arrhythmias,” said Ian Riddock, M.D., a co-author and director of preventive cardiology at the David Grant Medical Center, Travis Air Force Base, Calif. “The finding that energy drinks could prolong the QT, in light of the reports of sudden cardiac death, warrants further investigation.”

The researchers also found an increase of 3.5 points in the systolic blood pressure of energy drink consumers. “The correlation between energy drinks and increased systolic blood pressure is convincing and concerning, and more studies are needed to assess the impact on the heart rhythm,” said Sachin A. Shah, lead author of the analysis and assistant professor at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. “Patients with high blood pressures or long QT syndrome should use caution and judgment before consuming an energy drink.”

The research probably upped the blood pressure of the folks at Monster. The company's shares traded down after the studies were presented, according to Reuters. Earlier this month, the news service reports, the company said its medical investigators found no evidence that their drink caused the death of a teenage girl in Maryland.

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