(Bloomberg) — All too often, when employees reach that 3 p.m. slump, they reach for an energy drink to power them through the rest of the work day. Good for productivity perhaps, but —according to one analysis — bad for overall health. Previously linked to deaths and hospitalizations, energy drinks may boost blood pressure and lead to an erratic heartbeat, a meta-study finds.
An analysis of seven previous studies showed the beverages appeared to disturb the heart’s natural rhythm, which over time may lead to an irregular heartbeat or death and raise blood pressure. Today’s findings were presented at the American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans.
The Food and Drug Administration and other regulators have been investigating the drinks made by companies including Monster Beverage Corp., Living Essentials LLC and Red Bull GmbH after they were linked to hospitalizations and death. Today’s findings mean people, particularly those with pre-existing heart conditions, should be cautious when consuming the drinks, said Sachin Shah, the lead study author.
“We need to look at the effects of long-term energy drinks consumption and see what the consequences are,” said Shah, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., in a telephone interview. “Everything is good in moderation. Drink them within the limits that have been provided and be vigilant of what else you’re consuming with it.”
The high caffeine content may be causing these heart changes or it could be another ingredient in the drinks, Shah said. More studies are needed though to look at the ingredients and their health effects, he said. The heart changes don’t appear to be permanent, he said.
Energy drinks aren’t bound by FDA guidelines for caffeine in sodas because they are often sold as dietary supplements. Soda typically can have as many as 71 milligrams of caffeine per 12 ounces, while caffeine in energy drinks often ranges from 160 milligrams to 500 milligrams a serving, the FDA said in a letter last year.
Doctors this week wrote FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg saying energy drinks should have no more caffeine than sodas and companies should be required to list caffeine content on labels. The letter was signed by 18 doctors from centers that included Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
Democratic Senators Richard Durbin (Ill.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) urged the FDA in December to convene an expert panel to discuss the effects of consumers’ caffeine consumption. Durbin began pushing the FDA almost a year ago to more strictly regulate energy drinks.
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