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Energy drinks: Researchers study caffeine’s role in heart rate, blood pressure changes

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Photo: Mauro Matacchione/iStockphoto

Stockton, CA – Energy drinks could have potentially harmful effects on blood pressure and heart function – and not only because of caffeine – a recent study shows.

Researchers from the University of the Pacific and Travis Air Force Base’s David Grant USAF Medical Center divided 18 participants into two groups. One group was given 32 ounces of an energy drink that contained 320 milligrams of caffeine, while the control group was given a different drink with the same amount of caffeine. Researchers switched the drinks given to the groups the following week.

The researchers then used an electrocardiogram to measure electrical activity of the participants’ hearts. They also measured peripheral and central blood pressure before consumption of the energy drinks, as well as at several intervals 24 hours after drinking the beverages.

Consuming the energy drink resulted in more sustained periods of heart arrhythmia and mildly elevated systolic blood pressure among participants, the researchers found.

“This suggests that ingredients other than caffeine may have some blood pressure-altering effects, but this needs further evaluation,” Emily A. Fletcher, deputy pharmacy flight commander at Travis Air Force Base, said in a press release. “This is a small study and further studies are needed to confirm these results.”

Based on the preliminary findings, the researchers recommend that individuals who have high blood pressure, underlying cardiac conditions or other health issues may want to avoid or use caution when consuming energy drinks until more is known about their impact on heart health.

The study was published April 26 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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