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Energy drinks can increase risk of heart problems, doctors warn

In a world obsessed with productivity and battling fatigue, energy drinks have become a go-to choice for many. However, a recent study raises a red flag, suggesting these seemingly harmless beverages could be linked to serious health risks.

Ingredients and Their Risks

Energy drinks are loaded with high levels of sugar and caffeine. This combination has long been a concern for health professionals, but new research suggests a more alarming potential consequence: triggering life-threatening heart conditions.

Link to Arrhythmia

Doctors are now warning about the potential link between energy drinks and arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm that can lead to severe consequences like sudden cardiac arrest.

Comparing Caffeine Levels

Compared to a cup of coffee’s typical 100mg of caffeine, energy drinks boast a much higher range, reaching anywhere from 80mg to a whopping 300mg per serving.

Also read: Could Fasting Prevent Heart Diseases? University of California Scientists Think So

Additional Harmful Ingredients

But caffeine isn’t the only culprit. Many energy drinks also contain additional ingredients like taurine and guarana, which can further disrupt the heart’s delicate electrical system. These ingredients have been linked to changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and other crucial heart functions.

Evidence from Mayo Clinic Study

The potential dangers aren’t just theoretical. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in the United States conducted a study examining the medical data of 144 patients who had survived a cardiac arrest, according to Independent.

Study Results and Patient Outcomes

The results were concerning: seven patients, all between the ages of 20 and 42, reported consuming an energy drink prior to the life-threatening event. Even more alarming, six of these patients required electrical shock treatment to restart their hearts, and one needed manual resuscitation.

Also read: Want to prevent a heart attack? Have more sex

Calls for Further Research

While acknowledging the need for further research to definitively establish a causal link, experts are urging caution.

Dr Peter Schwartz, from the Centre for Cardiac Arrhythmias of Genetic Origin and Laboratory of Cardiovascular Genetics in Milan, Italy, co-authored an editorial accompanying the study. He emphasised the importance of raising awareness, stating, “Critics might say of these findings, ‘it’s just an association by chance.’

“We, as well as the Mayo Clinic group, are perfectly aware that there is no clear and definitive evidence that energy drinks indeed cause life-threatening arrhythmias and that more data are necessary, but we would be remiss if we were not sounding the alarm.”

Effects of Caffeine and Sugar

So, what exactly are these energy drinks doing to our bodies? Let’s break down the two main stimulants: caffeine and sugar.

Caffeine: Benefits and Risks

Caffeine, as Dr Belinda Griffiths from The Fleet Street Clinic explains, increases heart rate, improves concentration, and promotes alertness. In moderate amounts, it may even offer some heart health benefits for adults. However, the story takes a turn with the excessive amounts found in energy drinks.

Risks of Refined Sugar

The refined sugar in these beverages poses a significant health risk. “We can quite happily manage without it,” Dr Griffiths warns.

Also read: Coconut Water: The Super Drink That May Ease Inflammation, Lower Blood Pressure, and Speed Weight Loss

This sugar overload leads to a spike in blood sugar, providing a short burst of energy followed by a dramatic crash. This crash can negatively impact mood and lead to increased hunger, potentially prompting you to consume even more sugary drinks or unhealthy snacks.

Healthier Alternatives

For those looking to ditch energy drinks and find healthier ways to combat fatigue, experts offer a variety of alternatives.

London-based nutritionist Beanie Robinson recommends switching to sparkling water.

“Filtered water is truly what gives us energy,” she emphasises. She encourages people to break their reliance on energy drinks and suggests adding a squeeze of lemon, lime, cucumber, or mint to water for a refreshing and flavorful boost.

Also read: Cost of Healthy Diet in Nigeria Rises by 5.4% in One Month

A Call for Awareness

While an occasional energy drink may not cause immediate harm, the potential consequences highlighted by this new research are concerning. Experts overwhelmingly agree: there are far healthier and safer ways to maintain energy levels.

This research serves as a wake-up call, urging consumers to be mindful of the ingredients they consume and prioritise healthy alternatives for maintaining energy and overall well-being.

Final Advice

Instead of reaching for a sugary, high-caffeine beverage, consider getting a good night’s sleep, eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and staying hydrated with water. Your body will thank you for it.

Samuel Bolaji

Samuel Bolaji holds a Master of Letters in Publishing Studies from the University of Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He is an experienced researcher, multimedia journalist, writer, and Editor. He is currently the Editor of Arbiterz.

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