Energy Boost or Health?

Just one energy drink can trigger potentially ‘life threatening’ changes in blood pressure and heart rhythm new research now illustrates. How many young people turn to these drinks during exercise or exam times wishing to stay awake for longer.  I know when I was working silly hours it was usual practice to have one in the glove box of my car – the logic behind it being a quick power nap followed by a can of such a drink would allow a safe drive for the remaining journey!

We know already there is a rise in the number of strokes in young people – I am not for a minute saying it is down to these drinks but those who have grown to know me are familiar with my passion for raising awareness of ALL the ways we, as individuals, can make changes within our daily lives that collectively can help against prevention, and I hope you agree that has to be positive. Studies now suggest that by cutting such drinks out could be another of these worthwhile changes.

Not only do such drinks raise blood pressure following consumption, but it is even more worrying that after six hours the blood pressure is still as high. Whilst those drinking just caffeine did not have the same problem.  It is considered that caffeine in doses smaller than 400mg is safe.  The energy drinks contain caffeine but also a selection of other ingredients such as ginseng, taurine and guarana. With over 500 hundred types of such drinks on the market there has been a huge rise in people ending up in A&E after consuming them. Also, deaths reported prompting questions over their safety.

Dr. Emily Fletcher, a deputy pharmacy flight commander at USAF, who led the study said, ” There are currently more than five hundred energy drinks available on the market purported to boost physical and mental alertness, in line with their popularity is a rise in emergency department visits and deaths”.

Due to the fact the ingredients have the ability to alter electrophysiological properties, their sole use needs further scrutiny.

Eighteen healthy volunteers took part in the study.  All had their blood pressure and heart rate monitored prior to consuming 946ml of energy drink with some drinking a mixture of fruit juice, syrup and fizzy water, effectively the placebo. Both drinks contained 320mg of caffeine.

Researchers at the US Air Force Medical Centre in California, gave the volunteers the alternative drink 6 days later, repeating the experiment.

Gavin Partington, from the British Soft Drinks Association, said the caffeine in energy drinks is no different to that in coffee. Who am I to argue? I stress though the quantity we should consider other ingredients etc. Get our extra energy from natural safe foods, protein etc and not any type of energy drink – that way we are safe. If in doubt do not drink them.

Findings illustrated volunteers typically had “abnormal” electrical heart activity 2 hours following the energy drink, yet did not, following the controlled drink. The blood pressure too was higher 6 hours after the energy drink had been consumed.

We know already the risks attached to high blood pressure. The difference in electrical activity known as QTc intervals can cause the heart to beat abnormally which the researchers stress can be life-threatening. This is all from the energy drink alone, so imagine the damage that can be caused when the energy drink is mixed with alcohol. Awareness has to be spread here because we cannot blame young people, e.g. those studying.  If they are not told these things why wouldn’t they mix such drinks? Can you honestly say as you read this before knowing about it, that you have not done so in the past? I know I am guilty of it – out of ignorance. Now I’m aware I shall not be repeating it – I will say too it was a long time ago, not post stroke!

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