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Cardiovascular Institute

Energy drinks

 Are Energy Drinks Safe for the Heart?Use common sense when consuming energy drinks

Energy drinks are more popular than ever before. Millions of people rely on these pick-me-ups to help them stay awake and alert when they are feeling drowsy and lethargic. But in the wake of several deaths and injuries that may have been caused by over-consumption of energy drinks, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is taking a closer look at the safety of these products.

Misuse of energy drinks is also a growing concern shared by heart specialists, including Christopher Bonnet, MD, an electrophysiologist at West Penn Allegheny Health System’s Cardiovascular Institute. Dr. Bonnet noted that the adrenaline rush people get from an energy drink can increase blood pressure and trigger dangerous arrhythmias (fast or irregular heartbeats), particularly among young people and those with preexisting heart conditions.

“There is a very high level of caffeine in just one can of an energy drink—often equivalent to three cups of coffee,” said Dr. Bonnet. “Caffeine is a stimulant that can speed up the heart rate. In rare cases, high amounts of caffeine could potentially trigger a side effect such as ventricular fibrillation. This is a dangerous condition that can cause sudden death if not treated promptly.”

Energy drinks are not the only products that can cause an abnormal heart beat. Dr. Bonnet also cautions consumers to be careful when using any caffeine-based product such as dietary supplements, antihistamines, super colas and coffee. “Anyone who experiences light-headedness, palpitations, dizziness or loss of consciousness after using one of these products should discontinue use of the product and seek immediate medication attention,” he said.

While further research is needed to determine possible health risks that may be associated with energy drinks, most people can safely tolerate an occasional can of their favorite brand. “Common sense should be the watchword when consuming an energy drink,” said Dr. Bonnet. “Moderate amounts of these products are safe for most people and will not cause long-term problems.”

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