Energy drinks: adverse heart reactions linked to more than two per day

Energy drinks have become an increasingly popular beverage of choice, particularly among young people. Studies indicate, however, that there is a side effect of consuming more than two energy drinks per day. General physicians and other health care professionals should be informed about these negative effects.

Energy drinks are consumed extensively by people who wish to reduce fatigue, increase wakefulness and improve concentration and performance throughout the day. According to the latest insights, however, energy drinks have negative effects on our health.

In South Australia, researchers surveyed patients who were attending a hospital emergency department and who presented with heart palpitations. 70% of the patients had previously consumed some type of energy drink, while 36% had taken at least one energy drink in the past 24 hours before going to the hospital. Furthermore, the patients who heavily consumed energy drinks had a significantly higher occurrence of heart palpitations compared with those who drank less than one drink per day. A rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations and chest pain were seen in energy drink consumers who were healthy and had no risk factors for heart disease.

In cases where alcohol is taken together with the energy drinks, the problems are even bigger. Alcohol not only reduces the ability to make sensible decisions about energy drinks, but it also slows down the breakdown of caffeine and therefore is likely to increase the concentration to levels that may be dangerous.

These results show that taking energy drinks is not as safe as one may think, especially when alcohol is also involved. The recommended maximum amount of energy drinks per day is two, and health professionals should advice the public to keep this in mind.

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