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Energy drinks: no endothelial effects

ESC Congress News 2015 - London

Vascular Biology and Physiology
Risk Factors and Prevention

Energy drinks with low caffeine content do not appear to adversely affect vascular functions, according to a study presented at this Congress.

The energy drink market is booming, with estimates that over 30% of 12-19 year-olds regularly use them, apparently undeterred by case reports linking energy drinks to fatal arrhythmias, ST segment elevation, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, and aortic dissection. Or, for that matter, by studies suggesting that energy drinks increase blood pressure and platelet reactivity.

Cansin Tulunay Kaya, Cetin Erol, and colleagues, from Ankara University in Turkey explored the long-term consequences of energy drinks on CV health by documenting effects on endothelial dysfunction. ‘It’s well known that endothelial dysfunction plays an important role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, hypertension and diabetes and could facilitate the atherosclerotic events that occur in late life,’ said Erol. ‘It can be used as an early warning signal since it begins well before other morphological changes.’

Thirty healthy volunteers had their brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD) measured before drinking 355 ml of energy drink (containing 53.25 mg caffeine) and 60 minutes after consumption. FMD is the standard measure of endothelial function. Caffeine levels of 53.25 mg were selected since this is the legal level set in Turkey for commercially available energy drinks.

Results showed that systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and heart rate values were similar before and after energy drink consumption. Additionally, there was a 1.58% absolute decrease in FMD levels after consumption, but this did not reach statistical significance.

‘According to our study energy drinks with limited caffeine and taurine content don’t seem to have any influence on endothelial function,’ said Erol. ‘But these results should be interpreted with caution since the amount of caffeine and taurine in our protocol was lower than that used in commercially available products in many other countries.’                           

Turkey, he pointed out, is unusual in imposing legal limits on the amount of caffeine and taurine in drinks. Further studies exploring higher doses of caffeine and chronic use, he adds, should be undertaken before reaching definitive conclusions about the CV safety of energy drinks.’ Cardiologists should always ask young patients about their energy drink consumption, Erol warned.

Programme number P6478. Acute effects of energy drink consumption on endothelial function.