Just have a coffee instead. Or, ideally, a good night’s rest!

Energy drinks.

Image credits Simon Desmarais.

Energy drinks have been associated with a host of health problems, including conditions that relate to heart, stomach, and nerve function. New research comes to explain how such beverages interact with our cardiovascular systems. According to the findings, consuming just one energy drink leads to notably diminished blood vessel capacity — an effect that lasts at least 90 minutes.

“As energy drinks are becoming more and more popular, it is important to study the effects of these drinks on those who frequently drink them and better determine what, if any, is a safe consumption pattern,” authors noted.

The team was led by John Higgins, M.D., M.B.A., of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, Houston. Together with his colleagues, Higgins studied the endothelial (blood vessel) function of 44 healthy, non-smoking students in their 20s. Afterward, the students were given a 24-ounce (710 milliliters) energy drink. Blood vessel function was then re-analyzed, 90 minutes after the participants finished their drink.

The students experienced notably diminished blood vessel function after consuming the beverage, the team reports.

Before consuming the drink (and one and a half hours afterward), the team tested the students’ artery flow-mediated dilation. This basically involves taking an ultrasound measurement of an artery to gauge the overall health of a patient’s blood vessels. The team reports that vessel dilation was, on average, 5.1% in diameter at the start of the test, but dropped to 2.8% in diameter after the drink was consumed. This measurement is consistent with an acute impairment of vascular function, they add.

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Higgins and his team say that the change in vessel dilation may be produced by the blend of ingredients that go into making an energy drink. These components — usually caffeine, taurine, sugar, and other herbal components — may act on the endothelium (lining of the blood vessels) to make it constrict. The results are still preliminary and the team will need to perform further tests to see exactly which ingredients cause this effect.

The findings will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2018 conference in Chicago.

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