Health

Man, 21, left fighting for life after energy drink habit left him suffering heart failure


A YOUNG MAN was left fighting for his life due to his energy drink habit – and is warning others to avoid the same fate.

The unnamed 21-year-old developed heart failure after drinking an “excessive” amount of the caffeinated beverage, doctors say.

Energy drinks have a high caffeine and sugar content

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Energy drinks have a high caffeine and sugar contentCredit: SWNS

He drank four 500ml energy drinks a day for two years before he needed hospital care, a report in a leading medical journal revealed.

It is not clear which energy drink was his favourite, with popular brands including Red Bull, Monster and Relentless. 

London doctors wrote in BMJ Case Report that the university student sought help after suffering with shortness of breath and weight loss for four months.

He’d also had bouts of indigestion, tremors and heart palpitations.

Blood tests, scans, and ECG readings revealed that he had both heart and kidney failure – with the kidney failure linked to a long standing and previously undiagnosed condition.

The man had no medical history other than excessive intake of energy drinks.

Each can he chugged contained 160mg of caffeine, meaning he was consuming 640mg a day – the equivalent of around six average brewed cups of coffee.

Up to 400mg is considered a safe limit by US health officials.

But energy drinks don’t just contain caffeine – they are full of sugar, roughly double the amount in a can of coke, and sometimes additives and other stimulants. 

Docs from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust considered a number of diagnoses, but concluded: “Energy drink-induced cardiotoxicity was felt to be the most likely cause.”

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The man required intensive care treatment and was so ill that medics were considering whether he needed an organ transplant.

He spent 58 days in hospital, including a stint on the intensive care unit, which he described as “traumatising”.

In the three months prior to his hospital admission he was unable to carry on with his university studies due to his lethargy and generally feeling unwell. 

After nine months the student’s heart function has appeared to have returned with “mildly impaired function” with the use of medication.

But he is likely to still need a kidney transplant for his other condition. 

The anonymous patient added his own thoughts to the article, and called for more warning labels on the drinks.

He said: “When I was drinking up to four energy drinks per day, I suffered from tremors and heart palpitations, which interfered with my ability to concentrate on daily tasks and my studies at university.

Doctors ran various tests and concluded the man's heart problems were likely a result of his energy drink consumption

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Doctors ran various tests and concluded the man’s heart problems were likely a result of his energy drink consumption

“I also suffered from severe migraine headaches which would often occur during the periods when I did not drink energy drink; this also restricted my ability to perform day-to-day tasks and even leisurely activities such as going to the park or taking a walk.

“I was eventually admitted to the intensive care unit. This experience was extremely traumatising.

“I think there should be more awareness about energy drinks and the effect of their contents.

“I believe they are very addictive and far too accessible to young children. I think warning labels, similar to smoking, should be made to illustrate the potential dangers of the ingredients in energy drink.”

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The authors of the case study said it “adds to the growing concern in the literature about the potential cardiotoxic effects of energy drinks”.

There have been a number of other case studies reported in people in their 20s who have been addicted to energy drinks.

The exact way energy drinks may lead to heart problems is not clear, the doctors said, but may be because the heart is over stimulated and stressed over time.

The drinks are also “known to increase blood pressure and can precipitate a number of arrhythmias”.

“These chronic effects could also lead to heart failure,” the experts warned. 

Scientists found in 2019 that drinking could cause your blood vessels to narrow, which increases the risk of blockages and cause heart attacks and strokes.

Just one energy drink is enough to cause disruption in the heart rhythm minutes later.

It comes after a separate study, published in the journal Plos One, highlighted energy drink intake among teenagers.

Academics at Cardiff University analysed the responses of a health survey of more than 176,000 secondary school children in Wales aged 11 to 16.

The data, drawn from responses between 2013 and 2017, show that one in sixteen pupils said they drank energy drinks on a “daily” basis – a trend which didn’t change over time.

Study lead author Dr Kelly Morgan said: “The daily use of energy drinks among a proportion of young people has not declined – and our study reveals a widening disparity in consumption rates between those from low and high socioeconomic groups.

“Marketing campaigns for energy drinks are often aimed at those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. They are also an affordable choice and regularly available at cheaper prices than bottles of water.

“Their popularity is unlikely to wane unless legislative and policy measures are put in place.”





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