By now, it’s common knowledge that energy drinks aren’t exactly the healthiest beverage. However, a new study conducted at the non-profit Mayo Clinic has detailed just how much damage constant consumption can have on one’s body, especially for young adults. According to the report, even just one drink can increase stress hormones and blood pressure, with researchers expressing that “these acute hemodynamic and adrenergic changes may predispose to increased cardiovascular risk.”
For the study, which was published in the latest issue of JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), researchers put forth a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover pilot study in which participants were given either an energy drink or a placebo. The two groups would then be switched, with neither the researchers nor the participants knowing who was receiving which.
They found that blood pressure increased 1.0 percent for the placebo and 6.4 for the energy drink, measuring at baseline and again 30 minutes after ingestion. Additionally, the participants’ norepinephrine levels increased by almost 74 percent after consuming the energy drinks, compared to the 31 percent increase from the placebo.
“In previous research, we found that energy drink consumption increased blood pressure in healthy young adults,” explained first author and Mayo Clinic cardiology fellow Anna Svatikova. “We now show that the increases in blood pressure are accompanied by increases in norepinephrine, a stress hormone chemical, and this could predispose an increased risk of cardiac events — even in healthy people.”
To measure mental stress, participants were required to complete consecutive mathematical tasks as quickly as they could. For cold stress, participants had to stick one hand into an ice bucket. Blood pressure was then monitored for two minutes each during these circumstances.
Moreover, the researchers observed the participants norepinephrine levels increase from 150 pg/mL (picograms per millilitre) to 250 pg/mL after consuming the energy drink, while the placebo only showed a rise of 140 pg/mL to 179 pg/mL.
“Further research in larger studies is needed to assess whether the observed acute changes are likely to increase cardiovascular risk,” the team wrote.
Food scientist at Schmid College of Science and Technology, Lilian Were, cited the ingredients in the beverages as the root of problems like higher blood pressure. The high levels of caffeine and taurine mean youth and adults should now be more wary of drinking too many energy drinks.
“These results suggest that people should be cautious when consuming energy drinks due to possible health risks,” says Dr. Svatikova. “Asking patients about energy drink consumption should become routine for physicians, particularly when interpreting vital signs in the acute setting.”
For reference, the drink used in the study was Rockstar, which contained 240 mg of caffeine and 2,000 mg of taurine, according to the authors.