A can of Red Bull might give you wings, but it might also give you a host of heart-related health risks.
According to a study published Nov. 8 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, consuming just one energy drink results in a significant increase in blood pressure. Those acute spikes, the study’s authors wrote, may put energy drink fans at increased cardiovascular risk — though they’ll require further research to make any conclusions.
The participants — all healthy, nonsmoking, medication-free adults — were asked to drink one can of Rockstar Energy Drink and one similar-tasting, caffeine-free placebo drink within five minutes, in random order, on two different days over a span of two weeks. The researchers recorded various cardiovascular data, including heart rate and blood pressure, before and after the participants consumed the drinks.
A single can of Rockstar, they discovered, produced an average blood pressure increase of 6.4% — more specifically, a 6.2% spike in systolic blood pressure and a 6.8% spike in diastolic blood pressure. The placebo drink, meanwhile, only raised participants’ blood pressure by an average of 1%. The Rockstar also led to a 74% jump in levels of noreprinephrine, a hormone that increases blood pressure — significantly higher than the 31% spike caused by the placebo drink. Heart-rate increases were fairly even between the Rockstar and the placebo drink.
“I bet a lot of people don’t realize how much caffeine they’re getting,” Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist and director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, said, noting that a typical energy-boosting beverage can contain three to five times the amount of caffeine found in a standard cup of coffee. “It’s a little hard to say if people can do that in moderation. I, of course, advise against it.”
As long as you understand the way your body reacts to caffeine, it’s OK to have an energy drink now and then, Wellness expert John Rowley advised. Just don’t go crazy.
“It’s like when doctors say red wine is good for you,” he said. “They don’t mean a bottle — they mean a glass.”
“Maybe,” Goldberg suggested, “they should get enough sleep.”