Are energy drinks to blame for cardiac death?

Are energy drinks to blame for cardiac death?
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According to the results of the study, in a group of 144 people who survived cardiac arrest, five percent had consumed such a drink before the event. There is probably a genetic cause behind this, say the authors of the study, cardiologists from the world-famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

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. “Seven of these patients (five percent) mentioned that they had consumed energy drinks in the period close to the cardiac arrest,” says the journal of the German Medical Association.

32-year-old died eleven weeks after giving birth to her child

The study, which was recently published in Heart Rhythm (DOI: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2024.02.018), listed the individual case studies. For example, a 32-year-old woman suffered cardiac arrest 11 weeks after giving birth. She had consumed an energy drink before a workout. The cardiac arrest occurred later when she was resting in bed. According to Ackerman, she may have been weakened from childbirth, was also suffering from sleep deprivation and was possibly malnourished. This combination, along with the energy drink, may have been the “perfect storm” that led to cardiac arrest. The woman was later given an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to prevent further incidents.

20-year-old died while playing sports

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

“According to Ackerman, all patients stopped consuming energy drinks after surviving cardiac arrest. The cardiologist also strongly advises all people with genetic heart diseases that can lead to sudden death to weigh up the risks and benefits of consuming such drinks,” wrote the German Medical Journal. In addition to caffeine, energy drinks often contain taurine and guarana. All three substances are suspected of promoting the development of cardiac arrhythmias. 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. In experiments on rabbit hearts, taurine had shown a negative effect on the heart rhythm. In addition to caffeine, guarana probably also contains substances such as theophylline, which can also trigger arrhythmias.

“All of this does not prove that energy drinks are dangerous for healthy young people. However, caution may be warranted at least in patients with congenital heart disease,” wrote the German Medical Journal.

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