Energy drinks may promise a boost, but experts are increasingly concerned that their cocktails of ingredients could have unintended health risks. A study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that caffeinated energy drinks altered the heart’s electrical activity and raised blood pressure.
The extent of these electrical changes — which signal the heart’s chambers squeezing and relaxing — is “generally considered mild,” according to study author Sachin Shah, a professor of pharmacy at the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences at the University of the Pacific. However, people who take certain medications or have a specific type of heart condition could be at increased risk of a fatal arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, he added.
“Unlike drugs, supplements and consumer products do not necessarily get tested for safety,” Shah said in an email.
The American Beverage Association stands by the safety of energy drinks, indicating that many of their ingredients are also found in common foods and have been rigorously studied for safety.
But health experts like the World Health Organization say they “may pose danger to public health.” Children “should not consume” them, cautions the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Still, the global energy drink market continues to grow. It was worth $39 billion in 2013 and is forecast to reach $61 billion by 2021.