Long-term consumption of energy drinks induces
biochemical and ultrastructural alterations in the heart muscle.
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.
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
Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by: Jeffrey Driban
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