New data says that drinking an energy drink a day could give you serious heart problems
Although they can be useful for a quick boost of vigour in a pinch, we all know that deep down, drinking energy drinks is not good for you at all. A study last month revealed that just a can of Red Bull or Monster narrows your blood vessels in just 90 minutes, leaving you at serious risk of strokes and cardiovascular disease.
But for advocates of the fizzy, sugary energy drinks, there's yet more bad news for you, as new figures from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) reveal that drinking energy drinks on a daily basis could be causing as many as half a million people across the United Kingdom to lose their lives at the hands of a "silent killer".
Mark Horsman, a construction manager from Brighton in the south of England, is just one of the many people with a busy schedule who need an energy drink once in a while to stay ahead of things. But the 52-year-old construction manager had his world turned upside-down when his heart began "booming" in his chest.
"It was absolutely terrifying," Horsman says, revealing that he was sure he was going to die. "My heart was beating very fast, then would miss a beat and then it would 'boom'." But Horsman's doctor says he was experiencing what's known as an ectopic - or extra - heartbeat, and that it was likely brought on by his excessive caffeine intake.
The BHF say that your daily energy drink habit could easily bring on arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat) that increases the risk of a stroke by as much as five times. They say that in 2017/18, 1,324,067 were diagnosed with the condition, but with there being no symptoms of arrhythmia, they suspect around half a million go undiagnosed.
Around 600 million litres of energy drink are knocked back in the UK every year - an increase of over 200 million in just a decade - and Trudie Lobban, founder and CEO of The Arrhythmia Alliance, says that energy drinks are a prime culprit for the massive and worrying upward trend of arrhythmia sufferers.
"You wouldn’t necessarily have to have a faulty heart to suffer from arrhythmia – stimulants containing caffeine can trigger it. Six or seven coffees a day could do it, but these energy drinks carry a really high risk."
Experts suspect that health problems may arise because of the effect that excess caffeine consumption can have on the body, with the sudden influx of calcium on the body released from the heart cells disrupting the body's natural rhythm. "This can cause arrhythmias, but also has effects on the heart’s abilities to contract and to use oxygen," explains Professor Milou-Daniel Drici, who is a cardiology researcher from Nice University Hospital in France.
Professor Nicholas Linker from the British Society of Cardiologists corroborates this idea. The expert in arrhythmia says that one in five people are especially sensitive to caffeine, and are more susceptible to adverse caffeine effects as a result.
"About 20 per cent of the population is sensitive to caffeine, and for them just one energy drink could cause a heart-rhythm problem. For the remainder, one or two energy drinks a day could be OK. Young people who combine energy drinks with alcohol and smoking may be more at risk of ‘stimulant-linked’ arrhythmia, as opposed to the heart-rhythm problems that occur with ageing."
It's another important reminder that while energy drinks can have their positive effects in the short term, looking forward, the evidence is mounting that they're simply not worth the health risks.