Don't Touch That Energy Drink!

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New research shows that just a single energy drink can impede blood vessel function.

The next time you're feeling sleepy, skip the energy drink and go for a coffee or a power nap instead. Past research has shown that energy drinks contribute to decaying tooth enamel, contain high amounts of sugar and caffeine, and are often used as a mixer with alcohol, which has the dangerous effect of reducing drowsiness, but not drunkenness, making people more likely to engage in risky behaviors. Energy drinks has also been associated with heart, nerve, and stomach conditions, and linked to liver damage.

But if all that wasn't enough to deter you, then a small new study from UT Health in Houston might do it. Researchers found that consuming even just one energy drink can negatively affect blood vessel function. Dr. John Higgins observed 44 healthy, non-smoking medical students in their twenties. Their endothelial function (lining of the blood vessels) was tested before drinking a 24-ounce energy drink and again, 90 minutes later.

"One and a half hours after consuming the energy drink, researchers checked the young adults’ artery flow-mediated dilation – an ultrasound measurement that indicates overall blood vessel health. They found vessel dilation was on average 5.1 percent in diameter before the energy drink and fell to 2.8 percent diameter after, suggesting acute impairment in vascular function."

Dilation is important because it helps the blood to flow more easily through the arteries and reduces how hard the heart has to work to pump blood through. It also lowers blood pressure. Higgins and his colleagues said they think energy drinks' effect on the endothelium is due to its combination of ingredients, which includes caffeine, taurine (an amino acid), sugar, and herbal stimulants.

Considering that energy drinks are the most commonly used dietary supplement in the United States, with almost one-third of teens between 12 and 17 consuming them on a regular basis, this is news to take seriously, even if it is from a very small sample group.