Certain ingredients common in energy drinks could have adverse effects on cardiac health, according to a recent Texas A&M study.

Alex Smolokoff, Editorial coordinator

February 17, 2021

2 Min Read
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Whether first thing in the morning or to avoid the mid-afternoon crash, everyone needs a jolt of energy sometimes. And with an estimated market of US$53 billion globally, it’s clear that energy drinks are a great delivery method to get that needed boost.

However, according to researchers at Texas A&M University, consumers should take caution when choosing just how to obtain that energy boost. A recent study showed certain energy drinks—and specifically, certain compounds in those drinks—could have a negative impact on heart health.

The team of researchers observed cardiomyocytes (human heart cells grown in a laboratory) and exposed them to 17 readily available energy drinks. They observed an increased beat rate, as well as other “factors affecting cardiac function” when the cardiomyocytes were exposed to certain energy drinks. The researchers then studied the specific composition of the drinks that were causing issues in an attempt to zero in on certain ingredients ort compounds that could be causing the adverse effects. According to the findings, “Using mathematical models, researchers determined that the possible presence of theophylline, adenine and azelate … can have negative effects on the heart.”

“Little is known about the ingredients that may contribute to the adverse effects of energy drinks on the heart,” lead author Ivan Rusyn, MD, PhD., said. “Specifically, the evidence for cardiovascular effects from studies in humans remains inconclusive, as the controlled clinical trials were largely limited in the number of participants. They were tested only a limited number of energy drink types, and are difficult to compare directly, because they employed different methods to evaluate the function of the cardiovascular system.

“This study shows that some of the tested energy drinks may have effects on human cardiomyocytes, and these data corroborate other studies in humans,” he continued. “Therefore, we hope that the consumers will carefully weigh the performance-enhancing benefits of these beverages versus the emerging data that suggests that they may have real adverse effects.”

Rusyn also noted the potential need for better regulation of energy drinks by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), saying “We also hope that [FDA] takes a closer look at whether these beverages may need to be carefully reviewed with respect to possible labeling of their adverse health effects, and whether certain age groups and susceptible subpopulations should be advised against consumption of these beverages.”

As Rusyn noted, this is not the first study to link certain energy drinks with potential heart health issues. As consumers become increasingly aware of these potential issues, natural energy-boosting ingredients could see more widespread use, including adaptogens like ashwagandha and Rhodiola rosea, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), vitamin B12 and others. Old standbys like coffee and tea are also seeing new formats and flavors in the energy drink space.

About the Author(s)

Alex Smolokoff

Editorial coordinator, Informa

After a career in sportswriting, Alex Smolokoff was on the editorial team at Informa Markets from December 2018 through spring of 2022, working on Food & Beverage Insider. In his free time, he enjoys watching his hometown Boston sports teams.   

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