Dangers of Adolescent Energy Drink Consumption for the Heart: Cardiologists Urge Physicians, Parents, Educators to Monitor Adolescents’ Energy Drink Consumption More Closely

Overconsumption of these non-regulated drinks poses risks for arrhythmias and other cardiovascular events, as reported in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology

Philadelphia, PA, April 1, 2015

The rapid rise in popularity of energy drinks (EDs), particularly among adolescents (aged 10-19 years) and young adults, has serious implications for cardiac health. In an article published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, researchers focus on the pharmacology of EDs, adverse reactions to them, and how the marketing of these drinks as a means to relieve fatigue and improve physical and cognitive performance may be ignoring real dangers.

An international research team led by Fabian Sanchis-Gomar, PhD, MD, of the Research Institute of Hospital 12 de Octubre (“i+12”), Madrid, Spain, noted that EDs can trigger sudden cardiac deaths in young, apparently healthy individuals. For persons with underlying heart diseases, the risk of triggering sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) or other arrhythmias can be significant. Even atrial fibrillation (AF), normally uncommon in children without structural heart disease, has been observed in a 13-year-old adolescent boy during a soccer training session after ingesting EDs.

It is estimated that 31% of 12- to 19-year old adolescents regularly consume EDs. These beverages often contain high amounts of labeled caffeine. However, they can contain “masked” caffeine, in the form of guarana, for example, which comes from a Brazilian plant and is identical to caffeine found in coffee beans, but at twice the concentration. The addition of guarana and other substances such as ginseng and taurine in variable quantities may generate uncertain interactions.

Although caffeine is widely used and generally regarded as safe, serious adverse effects have been reported, especially when consumed in larger doses. With a range of readily available sources, such as EDs, gums, inhalers, and orodispersable sheets, adolescents and young adults can easily overdose. It is estimated that as many as 46% of the 5,448 caffeine overdoses reported in the United States in 2007 occurred in adolescents younger than 19 years.

Dr. Sanchis-Gomar and his co-investigators, Dr. Pareja-Galeano (Universidad Europea de Madrid), Dr. Cervellin, Dr. Lippi (Academic Hospital of Parma), and Dr. Earnest (Texas A&M University), caution that:

  • One can (250 mL) of an ED per day is safe for most healthy adolescents.
  • ED consumption before or during sports practice should be avoided.
  • Adolescents with clinically relevant underlying medical conditions should consult cardiologists before drinking EDs.
  • Excessive ED consumption together with alcohol or other drugs, or both, may lead to adverse effects, including death.

“As ED consumption continues to grow, physicians are advised to ask adolescent patients whether they consume EDs, to be aware of the symptoms of ED overconsumption, and to discuss the dangers of EDs alone and mixed with alcohol,” explained Dr. Sanchis-Gomar. “It is important for physicians to understand the lack of regulation in caffeine content and other ingredients of these high-energy beverages and their complications so that parents and children can be educated about the risk of cardiac arrhythmias and the potential development of anxiety and phobias accompanying excessive ED consumption.”

The authors also urge that concerns should be communicated to parents and educators, who may be inadvertently guilty of promoting overconsumption of caffeine.

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Notes for editors
“Energy Drink Overconsumption in Adolescents: Implications for Arrhythmias and Other Cardiovascular Events,” by Fabian Sanchis-Gomar, PhD, MD, Helios Pareja-Galeano, PhD, Gianfranco Cervellin, MD, Giuseppe Lippi, MD, and Conrad P. Earnest, PhD, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cjca.2014.12.019. The article is published online in advance of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, Volume 31, Issue 5 (May 2015), by Elsevier.

Full text of this article is available to credentialed journalists upon request. Contact Eileen Leahy at +1 732 238 3628or cjcmedia@elsevier.com to obtain copies. Journalists who wish to interview the authors should contact Fabian Sanchis-Gomar at fabian.sanchis@uv.es.

About the Canadian Journal of Cardiology
The Canadian Journal of Cardiology (www.onlinecjc.ca) is the official journal of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society (www.ccs.ca). It is a vehicle for the international dissemination of new knowledge in cardiology and cardiovascular science, particularly serving as a major venue for the results of Canadian cardiovascular research and Society guidelines. The journal publishes original reports of clinical and basic research relevant to cardiovascular medicine as well as editorials, review articles, case reports, and papers on health outcomes, policy research, ethics, medical history, and political issues affecting practice.

About the Editor-in-Chief
Editor-in-Chief Stanley Nattel, MD, is Paul-David Chair in Cardiovascular Electrophysiology and Professor of Medicine at the University of Montreal and Director of the Electrophysiology Research Program at the Montreal Heart Institute Research Center.

About The Canadian Cardiovascular Society
The Canadian Cardiovascular Society is the professional association for Canadian cardiovascular physicians and scientists working to promote cardiovascular health and care through knowledge translation, professional development, and leadership in health policy. The CCS provides programs and services to its 1900+ members and others in the cardiovascular community, including guidelines for cardiovascular care, the annual Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, and, with the Canadian Cardiovascular Academy, programs for trainees. More information about the CCS and its activities can be found at www.ccs.ca.

About Elsevier
Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Research Intelligence and ClinicalKey— and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 35,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group, a world-leading provider of information and analytics for professional and business customers across industries. www.elsevier.com

Media contact
Eileen Leahy
Elsevier
+1 732 238 3628
 cjcmedia@elsevier.com