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Energy Drinks Linked to Increased Blood Pressure and Abnormal Heart Rhythm

Update Date: Mar 21, 2013 04:21 PM EDT

Energy drinks are once again under fire after a new study linked to beverages to increased blood pressure and disturbances in heart rhythm.

In a new study presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions, researchers analyzed data from seven past observational and interventional studies to find out how energy drink intake affects heart health.

The first part of the analysis looked at the QT interval of 93 people who had just had one to three cans of energy drinks.  The findings reveal that the QT interval was 10 milliseconds longer for those who had drank energy drinks. Researchers explain that the QT interval describes a segment of the heart's rhythm on an electrocardiogram, and when the interval is prolonged, it can cause serious irregular heartbeats of sudden cardiac death.

"Doctors are generally concerned if patients experience an additional 30 milliseconds in their QT interval from baseline," lead author Sachin A. Shah, an assistant professor at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, said in a statement.

In light of recent reports of sudden cardiac death and the latest findings that energy drinks can prolong QT, researchers said the impact energy drinks have on health needs to be further investigated.

The analysis also found that the systolic blood pressure, the top number in a blood pressure reading, increased an average of 3.5 points in a sample of 132 healthy participants aged 18 to 45 years old.

"The correlation between energy drinks and increased systolic blood pressure is convincing and concerning, and more studies are needed to assess the impact on the heart rhythm." Shah said. "Patients with high blood pressures or long QT syndrome should use caution and judgment before consuming an energy drink."

"Since energy drinks also contain caffeine, people who do not normally drink much caffeine might have an exaggerated increase in blood pressure," she said, adding that older people or those with health concerns could have more heart-related side effects from energy drinks.

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