How do energy drinks affect vascular health? A new study investigates.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), energy drinks are among the most commonly used dietary supplements in the United States.
The NCCIH note, specifically, that men "between the ages of 18 and 34 years consume the most energy drinks," and that "almost one-third of teens between 12 and 17 years drink them regularly."
Because they contain high levels of caffeine, taurine, and other stimulating substances, the safety of energy drinks has always been the subject of intense debate.
For instance, the authors of one study covered by Medical News Today expressed concerns that energy drinks may act as a gateway for illicit drug use. Other research indicates that having too many energy drinks may cause liver damage.
Mostly, however, researchers have been concerned about the impact of energy drinks on cardiovascular health. Reportedly, having more than two such drinks per day may endanger the heart.
Now, specialists from the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston are preparing to present evidence that a single energy drink may have serious negative effects on blood vessel function.
Dr. John Higgins and colleagues are due to present their findings next week at the American Heart Association's (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2018, which will be held in Chicago, IL. During the 3-day summit, specialists will present the latest findings and advances related to cardiovascular health and care.
Blood vessel health acutely impaired
The study included 44 young, healthy participants. All were medical students in their 20s who did not habitually smoke.
The researchers tested the participants' endothelial (blood vessel) function at baseline, to establish how energy drinks would affect it.
The participants then each had a 24-ounce energy drink. Ninety minutes later, the researchers again performed the endothelial function tests.
At the 90-minute mark, the tests showed that the students had poorer artery flow-mediated dilation than they had before consuming the energy drinks.
Artery flow-mediated dilation indicates blood vessel health. At baseline, it was about 5.1 percent in diameter, on average.
Following energy drink consumption, this measurement fell to 2.8 percent in diameter. The researchers explain that this indicates acute impairment of blood vessel function.
The authors of the study speculate that the impairment of vascular function may result from a combination of substances typically used in energy drinks, including caffeine, taurine, sugar, and herbal stimulants.
Dr. Higgins and his team explain that it is still unclear whether energy drinks are safe to consume, and in what quantities. They add:
"As energy drinks are becoming more and more popular, it is important to study the effects of these drinks on those who frequently drink them and better determine what, if any, is a safe consumption pattern."