Energy Drinks Linked To Lethal Heart Problems

Energy Drinks Linked To Lethal Heart Problems
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, hacks and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Lifehacker Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a fix.

According to new scientific research, the consumption of energy drinks can lead to serious heart problems when dancing or exercising. This is because caffeine within energy drinks affects the heart’s ability to contract and to use oxygen which can lead to everything from irregular heartbeat to sudden death.

[credit provider=”Getty Images” url=”″]

A new study published in the European Society of Cardiology has shed new light on the adverse effects of “energy drinks” such as Red Bull and Mother on the heart. A team of researchers including cardiologists, psychiatrists, neurologists and physiologists analysed adverse events reported to French health agencies between 1 January 2009 and 30 November 2012.

In all, there were 257 reported cases relating to energy drinks, of which 95 involved cardiovascular symptoms, 74 psychiatric, and 57 neurological. Cardiac arrests and sudden or unexplained deaths occurred at least in 8 cases, while 46 people had heart rhythm disorders, 13 had angina and 3 had hypertension. The most common ailment was ‘caffeine syndrome’; characterised by a fast heart rate, tremor, anxiety and headaches.

Reported incidents were particularly high when combined with physical exercise due to higher demands placed on the heart.

“So-called “energy drinks” are popular in dance clubs and during physical exercise, with people sometimes consuming a number of drinks one after the other,” explained chief researcher professor Milou-Daniel Drici. “This situation can lead to a number of adverse conditions including angina, cardiac arrhythmia and even sudden death.”

Dr Drici stressed that part of the problem was that patients rarely mention consumption of energy drinks to their doctors unless they are asked. Subsequently, people with cardiac conditions are often unaware of the potential dangers that these drinks can pose to their health.

“The general public need to know that so-called ‘energy drinks’ have absolutely no place during or after physical exercise, as compared with other drinks designed for that purpose,” Dr. Drici said. “When used in long alcoholic cocktails, the caffeine in ‘energy drinks’ enables young people in dance clubs or elsewhere to overcome the unwanted effects of alcohol, leading to an even greater intake of caffeine.”

“Patients with cardiac conditions including catecholaminergic arrhythmias, long QT syndrome and angina should be aware of the potential danger of a large intake of caffeine, which is a stimulant that can exacerbate their condition with possibly fatal consequences.”



  • What I wonder is, how many drinks were these people having when they reported these problems? There’s a world of difference between someone having the occasional drink, going dancing and dropping dead, and someone who chugs 3-4 drinks a day and parties hard on the weekend.

    • It requires large amounts of caffeine, and far more than they’ve build up a tolerance for. It’s a bigger issue if you have any caffeine sensitivity or any slight irregularity with your heart.

      The big problem is that caffeine has been proven to substantially increase your stamina when exercising, which is why huge numbers of pro (and amateur) athletes go weeks without a cup of tea and then have a huge amount at once. Remember the fuss a year or two ago when it turned out all AFL players were knocking back several no-doz during each game?

      I’d also recommend this piece about caffeine use in marathon runners:

      (edit: wrote this while drinking my second 500ml energy drink for the day)

  • I thought that other studies had shown that the heart issues with energy drinks weren’t being caused by the caffeine, but by something else (possibly the taurine which is common in a lot of these drinks)?

  • I think this is slightly unfair. The problem isn’t the energy drinks, the problem is people drinking a high caffeine drink as though it’s water. Similar accusations have been levelled at artificial sweeteners – by people drinking 20+ cans of diet coke a day.

    Energy drinks have their place as a source of caffeine and an alternative to tea and coffee, but ingesting any caffeinated product in large quantities is going to be dangerous.

  • The experiment appears to confirm something that I thought was common knowledge (which is a valid and valuable scientific pursuit of course).

    As I’ve understand it since physical education in school, one of the effects of caffeine is to make your muscles work harder. Which makes you temporarily stronger.

    The heart is an autonomous muscle, so if you have caffeine, it beats harder than it should for your current physical stress.

    If you have caffeine all the time, the result is repetitive strain injury to your heart, and this effect will be stronger if you exercise under the influence of caffeine.

    Don’t get me wrong, I intake well above the average amount of caffeine, so clearly I accept the consequences. (Though I did give up guarana when the consequences started to exhibit too obviously).

  • How would this compare to riding a bicycle up a hill, sitting down and drinking a couple of caffienated coffees at a a cafe whilst wearing your lycra jumpsuit (which I wouldn’t be caught dead in), and then riding your bike back home? No different I suspet? How come energy drinks were targeted rather than caffienated beverages in general?

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!