A research team led by Sachin A. Shah, PharmD, FAHA, professor of pharmacy practice and regional coordinator for Travis Air Force Base, discovered consuming energy drinks altered the heart’s electrical activity and raised blood pressure. They recently published the article “Impact of High Volume Energy Drink Consumption on Electrocardiographic and Blood Pressure Parameters: A Randomized Trial” in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Dr. Shah and team found consuming energy drinks raised blood pressure, which could lead to future health complications such as heart attack and stroke. Their findings also showed energy drink consumption significantly prolonged the QTc interval, an indication that the patient is at increased risk for fatal arrhythmias.

“The public should be aware of the impact of energy drinks on their body especially if they have other underlying health conditions,” Dr. Shah said. Those with hypertension or a family history of heart disease should avoid or limit the use of energy drinks. Dr. Shah also urges energy drink consumers who currently take any medications or supplements to speak with their physician or pharmacist about any potential harmful interactions.

Pacific students had the opportunity to help conduct a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-masked, crossover study. Andy H. Szeto ’18, PharmD, Raechel Farewell ’18, PharmD, Dorothy Fan ’18, PharmD, Kathy N. Quach ’18, PharmD, Jasmine Elmiari ’19, PharmD and Winny Chan ’20 assisted with the research that led to these significant findings. For the study, healthy volunteers consumed 32 ounces of either an energy drink or a placebo within an hour. The researchers then measured their blood pressure and heart rhythm, including QTc, the time it takes for the ventricles of the heart to contract and relax.

“We found an association between consuming energy drinks and changes in QT intervals and blood pressure that cannot be attributed to caffeine,” Dr. Shah said. “We need to investigate the individual ingredients or combination of ingredients in different types of energy drinks that might explain the findings seen in our clinical trial.”

“Energy drinks are readily accessible and commonly consumed by a large number of teens and young adults, including college students,” said study co-author Kate M. O’Dell, PharmD, BCPS, professor of pharmacy practice and director of experiential programs. “Understanding how these drinks affect the heart is extremely important.” For health care professionals, energy drink consumption should be assessed when a patient presents with changes in heart rhythm or blood flow.

Additional co-authors included Mouchumi Bhattacharyya, PhD, Tracey J. McGaughey, PharmD, Javed M. Nasir, MD, Sanjay Kaul, MD, Allen Shek, PharmD, professor of pharmacy practice and associate dean of professional programs, and Nancy N. Nguyen, PharmD, BCPS, AAHIVP, FCSHP, clinical professor of pharmacy practice and regional coordinator for Palo Alto.

By Anne Marie H. Bergthold
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