Once again fellow travelers we are warned against imbibing caffeine to excess. The elevated levels of caffeine and energy drinks may lead to cardiac problems; this coming from a case study a report in the July/August Journal of Addiction Medicine, at the official journal of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Wolters Kluwer publishes the journal.


Maryam Sattari, M.D.

The case study adds to prior reports of unfavorable cardiovascular events related to the consumption of energy drinks, including abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). The lead author is one Dr. Maryam Sattari of University of Florida, Gainesville.


The case study involves a 28-year-old man seen in the emergency department after developing vomiting with blood. Upon examination, the only abnormality, other than obesity, was a very fast heart rate–about 130 beats per minute.


Afib-Feels-Like-AdAn electrocardiogram uncovered an abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation, the rapid, irregular, and unsynchronized contraction of the muscle fibers of the upper chambers of the heart. This is a common type of arrhythmia and it can lead to serious complications if sustained. Further testing showed no other heart problems.


This individual said he routinely drank two Monster energy drinks per day, for a total caffeine content of 320 mg, along with two or three beers. No other common causes of his heart rhythm abnormality were apparent.


Pills in hand, close-up, isolated on white background

With the administration of medications, the atrial fibrillation resolved over 48 hours. An endoscopy was performed, related to the vomiting of blood, showing a tear of the stomach and esophagus. Forceful vomiting probably caused this. The individual was finally sent home in stable condition. A one-year’s follow-up exam uncovered no further symptoms of active arrhythmia.


Although several factors might have contributed to the patient’s atrial fibrillation, Dr. Sattari and colleagues write, “We believe that energy drink consumption played a key role.” They point out the 160 mg caffeine content of a Monster energy drink is about four times higher than in a caffeinated soft drink (The caffeine content of coffee drinks varies widely, but may be even higher).


A review of the medical research identified at least eight cases of cardiovascular events linked to energy drinks, such as Monster or Red Bull. The researchers discuss several mechanisms by which the high caffeine content of these products might lead to cardiovascular events. These include other ingredients, such as taurine, that might heighten the effects of caffeine; using energy drinks along with alcohol or illicit drugs; or high-stress levels.


Energy-DrinksEnergy drinks have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially among adolescents and young adults. Marketed as “nutritional supplements,” these beverages are not subject to the caffeine limits on soft drinks, or to the safety testing and labeling required for medications


This and previous reports are “suggestive but not conclusive” that the caffeine in energy drinks may cause abnormal heart rhythms and other cardiac complications. “We suggest that arrhythmia could be a complication of energy drink consumption,” Dr. Sattari and coauthors write. They encourage health care providers to ask about energy drink intake in otherwise healthy young patients with unexplained arrhythmias.


Hughes, C. (2016, August 2). Cardiac Complications from Energy Drinks? Case Report Adds New Evidence at. Retrieved August 2, 2016, from Newswise: http://www.newswise.com/articles/cardiac-complications-from-energy-drinks-case-report-adds-new-evidence



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