Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: Need a Boost? That Energy Drink May be More Harmful Than You Realize (Sports Med Res)

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Need a Boost? That Energy Drink May be More Harmful Than You Realize

Long-term consumption of energy drinks induces biochemical and ultrastructural alterations in the heart muscle.

Munteanu C, Rosioru C, Tarba C, and Lang C. Anatol J Cardiol. 2018. [Epub Ahead of Print].

Take Home Message: Long-term use of energy drinks can adversely affect heart muscle.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Cardiac_Muscle.png
Energy drinks are often marketed to active individuals and contain high levels of caffeine, niacin, and taurine. Consumption of these products is related with adverse effects of the nervous, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal systems. However, little research has assessed the long-term effects of energy drink consumption. Therefore, Munteanu and colleagues completed a study on rats to investigate the effects of chronic energy drink consumption with and without alcohol on the physiology and structure of heart muscle. Twenty-eight, male, albino Wistar rats were divided into 4 groups: 1) tap water (control), 2) energy drink, 3) alcohol, and 4) energy drink and alcohol. All animals were given standard diets and water for 30 days. The authors gave the animals alcohol or energy drink via the drinking water each day based on their body weight. In the last 6 days of the experiment, physical performance tests were conducted using a weight-loaded, forced swim test, which the animals performed until exhaustion. After testing on the 30th day the animals were euthanized and serum and heart muscles were harvested. Researchers measured total heart glucose, glycogen, cholesterol and protein concentrations. Overall, glucose concentrations were higher in the energy drink and alcohol group compared to the control group. Glycogen levels were higher in the energy drink group compared to the control group. Cholesterol levels were lower in all treatment groups compared to the control group. While structural heart muscle changes were observed among animals consuming alcohol, the authors found no structural changes among animals consuming energy drinks.

Ultimately, the authors demonstrated that the long-term use of alcohol and/or energy drinks can result in biochemical and structural changes to the heart muscle. The authors reported that glycogen accumulation in the heart can disrupt heart activity and increase the risk of “tachycardia, palpitations, cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, and even death”. Decreased levels of cholesterol is also concerning as cholesterol, which is critical to the stability of cell walls, could lead to changes in cellular metabolism. This data could be helpful to clinicians as consumption of alcohol or energy drinks is prevalent in young, physically active populations. As clinicians educate their patients about dangerous nutritional habits; such as, consuming energy drinks; we also need to be aware of the other literature that suggests short-term moderate consumption of energy drinks can improve the cognitive and psychomotor capacities. If clinicians only report the adverse effects of these drinks, we risk losing the trust of our patients or their willingness to listen to our advice.

Questions for Discussion: Do you educate your patients on nutritional considerations? If so, do you specifically address energy drink or alcohol consumption?

Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban

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