Rip It Energy Drink
Put down that energy drink!
01:11 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

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.

So what exactly is inside these drinks, and how do they impact your body?

‘A black box’

Over the years, concerned experts have been getting closer to answering those questions, said Dr. John Higgins, a sports cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Most energy drinks typically contain large amounts of caffeine; added sugars; vitamins, such as B vitamins; and legal stimulants, such as guarana, a plant that grows in the Amazon; taurine, an amino acid that’s naturally found in meat and fish; and L-carnitine, a substance in our bodies that helps turn fat into energy.

“Overall, the concern is that these vitamins, amino acids and herbals are often in higher concentrations than naturally in food or plants, and the effects when combined especially with caffeine may be enhanced,” Katherine Zeratsky, a clinical dietitian at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, previously told CNN.

Higgins, who has led multiple studies on energy drinks and health impacts, agreed.

With the caffeine, sugar and stimulants, Higgins previously told CNN that more research is needed to determine how those ingredients could interact to cause negative health effects.

“They’re sort of a black box. We really don’t know a lot about them,” Higgins said of energy drinks.

“People need to be aware of that,” he said. “For certain groups, it could be potentially dangerous, like for those under 18, women who are pregnant, people who have a caffeine sensitivity, people who don’t consume caffeine on a regular basis and people who are taking certain medications, like Adderall for attention deficit (disorder).”

Rachel Hicks, a spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, previously issued a statement from the group that said many people around the world have safely consumed energy drinks for more than 25 years.

“Many of the ingredients in energy drinks, such as B vitamins and taurine, are found naturally in many foods,” the statement said.

“The fact remains that energy drinks have been extensively studied and confirmed safe for consumption by government safety authorities worldwide including a recent review by the European Food Safety Authority. America’s leading energy drink manufacturers voluntarily go beyond all federal requirements when it comes to responsible labeling and marketing practices, including displaying total caffeine content – from all sources – on their packages,” the statement said. “As recently as 2015, EFSA again concluded that it is unlikely that energy drink ingredients such as taurine interact adversely with, or enhance the effects of, caffeine.”

Here’s a look at how certain parts of your body may be affected after guzzling more than the recommended amount of energy drink, according to experts.

‘Arteries of his heart were completely locked up’

After chugging an energy drink, you might notice your heart rate increase.

Your rapidly beating heart could pose a health risk, as “energy drinks not only have been shown to raise stress levels, increase heart rate, increase blood pressure, they’ve also been shown to make the blood a little bit thicker,” Higgins said.