RSNA: Cardiac MRI shows altered heart function after energy drink boost

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CHICAGO—Those looking for a quick jolt from an energy drink should consider the risks to their heart as consumption of the highly caffeinated drinks has been shown to increase heart contraction rates in the left ventricle (LV) an hour later, according to a study presented Dec. 2 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Energy drinks usually contain taurine and caffeine as their main pharmacological ingredients, according to radiology resident Jonas Dörner, MD, of the cardiovascular imaging section at the University of Bonn, Germany. They can contain up to three times the amount of caffeine found in coffee or soda.

While there have been concerns about the possible adverse effects of energy drinks, few restrictions have been placed on sales.

“They are freely available over the counter with almost no regulation on sale, but according to a recent report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service, the number of emergency department visits related to energy drink consumption almost doubled from 2007 to 2011,” said Dörner. Most emergency visits were identified among patients aged 18 to 25.

Dörner and colleagues presented the preliminary results of an ongoing study using cardiac MRI to measure the effect of energy drinks on heart function. Data presented came from a group of 18 healthy volunteers, mean age of 27.5 years, who underwent cardiac MRI on a 1.5T scanner both before and one hour after consuming an energy drink. Complementary spatial modulation of magnetization (CSPAMM) was used for LV myocardial tagging. The drink used contained taurine (400 mg/100 ml) and caffeine (32 mg/100 ml).

Results showed peak strain and peak systolic strain rate, used as parameters for LV-contractility, were significantly increased one hour after energy drink consumption compared with baseline images. Other vital parameters, such as heart rate and blood pressure, were not significantly affected.

Dörner said the study demonstrated the short-term impact of energy drinks on contractility, but further study is required to better understand long-term effects. However, he advised that children and those with known cardiac arrhythmias should avoid the drinks because changes in LV contraction rates could trigger arrhythmias.