Warning over heavy energy drink consumption

UK doctors have warned against the heavy consumption of energy drinks after treating a 21-year-old who had presented to hospital with shortness of breath and abdominal swelling, with subsequent tests revealing heart and kidney failure severe enough that the hospital considered a dual organ transplant.

Reportedly, he had no significant past medical, family or social history, indicating his condition may have been linked to his heavy energy drink consumption – four 500ml energy drink cans daily for approximately two years.

The case report was published in the journal BMJ Case Reports and is said to add to the growing body of published evidence on, and mounting concerns about, the potential heart health harms of these drinks.

In addition to experiencing symptoms such as progressive shortness of breath on exertion, breathlessness while lying down and weight loss, the report indicates that he also reported bouts of indigestion, tremor and palpitations in the past for which he hadn’t sought medical help.

Reportedly, in the three months before he was admitted to hospital, he had been forced to discontinue his university studies due to feeling so unwell and lethargic.

It’s said that while he is still likely to need a kidney transplant, because of an unrelated condition, his heart symptoms and function improved significantly with drug treatment and after he cut out energy drinks completely.

“However, it is difficult to predict the clinical course of recovery or potential for relapse,” caution the authors.

The authors of the case report add that while this is just one case report, there have been several others as well as review articles that have highlighted mounting concerns about the potential cardiovascular system harms of energy drinks.

According to the authors possible explanations for the published findings could be that overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system by caffeine may be a factor ­­­– energy drinks are also known to raise blood pressure and can trigger heart rhythm abnormalities.

“Clear warnings should be provided about the potential cardiovascular dangers of energy drink consumption in large amounts,” the authors conclude.

“I think there should be more awareness about energy drinks and the effect of their contents,” adds the subject of this case report.  “I believe they are very addictive and far too accessible to young children.”

To read the case report, visit: casereports.bmj.com/content/14/4/e239370

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