Study finds energy drinks intensify heart contractions

December 2, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Anyone looking for an energy boost can find it in an energy drink. It's what Brett Steinmann, a student at the Art Institute was looking for.

"When I'm on four hours of sleep and have to go all day at school, it's useful," said Steinmann.

But researchers say energy drinks packed with caffeine can affect the body beyond giving it a second wind. German radiologist Dr. Jonas Doerner says energy drinks can intensify heart contractions.

"The ingredients of the energy drinks are known to have effects on physiological roles on the body. So we wanted to know if energy drink consumption can change heart function," said Doerner.

Doerner presented his research at the Annual Conference of the Radiological Society of North America at McCormick Place. His team took MRI scans of 18 healthy volunteers and found that they had significantly increased heart contraction rates one hour after consuming energy drinks. While he says that does not pose a risk to healthy people. . .

"For people with known or unknown heart disease, it could be a problem," said Doerner.

And children, he says, who should not consume more than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day-- roughly the equivalent of three cans of coke. Doerner says the amount of caffeine is typically up to three times higher in energy drinks than in other drinks like coffee or cola. Prolonged use of energy drinks by a person with health complications can put them at risk.

"Palpitations, seizures, arrhythmias of the heart," said Doerner.

Doerner says additional studies are needed to understand the impact of an intensified heart contraction and to determine how long the effect of the energy drink lasts.

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