Energy drink leads to heart failure in a young man

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  • Even though it’s a case report, it adds to growing concerns about heart attacks from energy drinks, according to the authors.

    Even though it's a case report, it adds to growing concerns about heart attacks from energy drinks, according to the authors.

    Heavy consumption of energy drinks may be linked to heart failure, doctors warned in BMJ Case Reports after treating a 21-year-old, who had regularly drunk 4 such cans a day for about 2 years.

    4 cans of 500 ml per day

    This report adds to the growing body of published evidence and growing concerns about the potential heart damage from these drinks, say the authors. The young man in question ended up in intensive care after 4 months of progressive shortness of breath on exertion, shortness of breath when lying down (orthopnea) and weight loss.

    He usually drank an average of four 500 ml cans of energy drink each day: each can contains 160 mg of caffeine plus taurine (a protein) and various other ingredients. He said he had been doing this for about 2 years.

    He also recalled that he had had bouts of indigestion, tremors and palpitations in the past for which he had not seen a doctor. During the 3 months before his admission to hospital, he had been forced to interrupt his university studies because he felt very ill and lethargic.

    Heart and kidney failure after 2 years of energy drink consumption

    Blood tests and ECG readings revealed he had both heart and kidney failure, severe enough to warrant being considered for a double organ transplant. Although he was still likely to need a kidney transplant, due to an unrelated disease, his heart symptoms and function improved dramatically with drug treatment and after completely stopping energy drinks.

    “However, it is difficult to predict the clinical course of recovery or the potential for relapse,” the authors warn. This is only a case report, but several others as well as review articles have highlighted growing concerns about the potential damage of energy drinks on the cardiovascular system, the authors note.

    Over-stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system by caffeine may be a factor. Energy drinks are also known to increase blood pressure and can trigger abnormal heart rhythms, the authors say, in explanation of results published to date.

    No regulation due to industry lobby

    “Clear warnings should be provided about the potential cardiovascular dangers of consuming large amounts of energy drinks,” they conclude. “I think there should be more awareness about energy drinks and the effect of their content,” adds the subject of this case report. “I think they are very addictive and way too accessible to young children.”

    In addition, the sugar industry, which has an absolute monopoly on energy drinks, lobbies all the health agencies to avoid any ban. Advertising also targets children, but also new trends like esports where brands like Red Bull are the main sponsors.

    In 2018 alone, the energy drink industry spent $ 1 billion on advertising and that staggering amount grows with each passing year, targeting young people and children. Whenever a state tries to limit these energy drinks, lobbies come in to dismantle any kind of regulation.

    The enormous risk of obesity should not be forgotten, because in addition to being saturated with caffeine, an energy drink is also filled with sugar. Today we know of the corruption of the sugar industry, which has tried to hide the harmful effects of overconsumption by blaming the fat. When you look at the popularity of energy drinks among young people and children, then you have a very strong correlation on the explosion of obesity in the same age group.

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