US study shows:

Sudden cardiac death from energy drinks possible

10.06.2024 12:48

Energy drinks can cause sudden cardiac death. According to a US study, in a group of 144 people who survived a cardiac arrest, five percent had consumed such a drink before the event. The authors of the study believe that there is probably a genetic cause behind this.

The US heart specialist Michael Ackerman - according to a summary in the German Medical Journal - analyzed the medical records of 5,000 patients who were treated for cardiac arrhythmias at the Windland Smith Rice Genetic Heart Rhythm Clinic between 2000 and 2023. 144 of these people had survived sudden cardiac death. "In seven of these patients (five percent), it was mentioned that they had consumed energy drinks close to the time of the cardiac arrest," according to the journal of the German Medical Association.

Case studies show connection
In the study by cardiologists from the world-famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, which was recently published in Heart Rhythm (DOI: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2024.02.018), the individual case studies were listed. For example, a 32-year-old woman suffered a cardiac arrest eleven weeks after the birth of a child. She had consumed an energy drink before a sports training session. The cardiac arrest occurred when she was later resting in bed. According to Ackerman, she may have been weakened by the birth, she was also suffering from a lack of sleep and was possibly malnourished. This combination, along with the energy drink, could have been the "perfect storm" that led to the cardiac arrest. The woman was later given an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to prevent further incidents.

Another affected person, a 20-year-old man, always drank an energy drink before exercising. He collapsed while sprinting and had to be resuscitated. No clear cause was found in this case either. However, a genetic test showed changes in the ALPK3 gene. A second woman collapsed at work after a verbal argument. Due to a variant in the RYR2 gene, the doctors diagnosed a stress hormone (catecholamine)-dependent tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), which had apparently led to ventricular fibrillation. She also received a pacemaker with defibrillator function.

Better not to drink energy drinks if you have heart problems
"According to Ackerman, none of the patients consumed energy drinks after surviving the cardiac arrest. The cardiologist also advises all people with genetic heart disease, which can lead to sudden death, to urgently weigh up the risks and benefits of consuming such drinks," wrote the Deutsches Ärzteblatt. In addition to caffeine, energy drinks often contain taurine and guarana. All three substances are suspected of promoting the development of cardiac arrhythmia.

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None of this proves that energy drinks are dangerous for healthy young people. However, caution may be required, at least for patients with congenital heart disease.

Deutsches Ärzteblatt

In an earlier epidemiological study, the consumption of more than 687 milligrams of caffeine per day was associated with a 44 percent increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Taurine had shown a negative effect on the beating rhythm in experiments on rabbit hearts. In addition to caffeine, guarana presumably also contains substances such as theophylline, which can also trigger arrhythmia.

"None of this proves that energy drinks are dangerous for healthy young people. However, caution may be required, at least in patients with congenital heart disease," wrote the German Medical Journal.

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