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A&M professor leads research showing energy drink’s harmful effects on heart
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A&M professor leads research showing energy drink’s harmful effects on heart

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Ivan Rusyn

Ivan Rusyn

A Texas A&M University professor recently led a team of researchers that determined energy drinks can be harmful to the heart’s muscle cells.

Ivan Rusyn, a professor in A&M’s Veterinary Integrative Biosciences Department, led a team that examined lab-grown human heart cells that had been exposed to energy drinks that affected the heart’s function, including an increased heart rate. The team’s research will be published in the March edition of Food and Chemical Toxicology.

The study found that consuming energy drinks has resulted in improper heartbeat, cardiomyopathy, increased blood pressure and other heart conditions. Rusyn said in a release announcing the findings that it is important to understand the potential health consequences of consuming energy drinks. Energy drink sales are increasing after totaling around $53 billion worldwide in 2018, the release said.

“Because the consumption of these beverages is not regulated and they are widely accessible over the counter to all age groups, the potential for adverse health effects of these products is a subject of concern and needed research,” Rusyn said. “Indeed, the consumption of energy drinks has been associated with a wide range of adverse health effects in humans, many of them are concerning the effects on the heart.”

In the study, researchers treated lab-grown human heart cells with 17 brands of energy drinks. The team examined the drinks’ composition, and researchers were able to infer which ingredients were having more effects by comparing concentrations in each drink. The findings led researchers to determine the presence of theophylline, adenine and azelate in energy drinks can have negative effects on the heart.

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“Little is known about the ingredients that may contribute to the adverse effects of energy drinks on the heart,” Rusyn said. “Specifically, the evidence for cardiovascular effects from studies in humans remains inconclusive, as the controlled clinical trials were largely limited in the number of participants.”

The trials “tested only a limited number of energy drink types, and are difficult to compare directly, because they employed different methods to evaluate the function of the cardiovascular system,” Rusyn said.

Further research of those ingredients is warranted, he said.

The research corroborates other studies in humans that found ingredients in energy drinks could affect the human heart, Rusyn said.

“Therefore, we hope that the consumers will carefully weigh the performance-enhancing benefits of these beverages versus the emerging data that suggests that they may have real adverse effects.

“We also hope that the Food and Drug Administration takes a closer look at whether these beverages may need to be carefully reviewed with respect to possible labeling of their adverse health effects, and whether certain age groups and susceptible sub-populations should be advised against consumption of these beverages.”

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