Study: One energy drink can harm our blood vessels

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Caffeine packed energy drinks are popular.

You’ve heard the health risks about drinking them before, but you may want to pay attention to a new study.

It's sounding the alarm on the immediate effect just one drink can have on the body… and who's most at risk.

It’s the pick-me-up UAH engineering student Carlos Rochel reaches for during those long study sessions.

“It takes a lot of focus and a lot of concentration to able to just sit down and study what you need to,” Rochel. The need for a jolt in his mind, far outweighs the health risks he’s read about on energy drinks.

“What we’ve known for a long time is these drinks can increase your blood pressure, increase your heart rate, cause anxiety, insomnia, stomach issues and even cardiac arrhythmia,” said internal medicine expert Dr. Rosemary Bates.

Despite the warnings, it hasn't slowed their popularity especially among young people.

Energy drinks are still the most commonly used dietary supplement on the market behind multi-vitamins.

However, a new study is highlighting fresh concerns that just one drink can harm our blood vessels. The study from the McGovern Medical School in Houston found young, healthy adults experienced notably diminished blood vessel function after consuming just one 24-ounce energy drink. Essentially, restricting blood flow and oxygen to organs. Researchers do not attribute reduced blood vessel function caffeine or the sugar content but the blend of ingredients on the label.

The American Beverage Association represents the non-alcoholic beverage industry and refutes the study, calling it flawed:

“Mainstream energy drinks and their ingredients, including low- and no-calorie sweeteners, have been extensively studied and confirmed safe for consumption by government safety authorities worldwide. Nothing in this preliminary research counters this well-established fact.”

"I think energy drinks get a bad rep because they have some concerns about the amount of caffeine in them. There is also the concern that we don't know exactly what is in them, they are supplements, they are not regulated directly by the FDA the same way other food products are," said Cardiologist Dr. Chris Roth.

For Bates, her biggest concern is who’s reaching for a can. “Manufacturers have sort of shifted the focus from athletes to young people. About a third of our youngsters from 12 to 17 are drinking an energy drink,” said Bates.

She offered some healthy alternatives like trying green juices, spinach, parsley and kale - all great sources to boost your metabolism.

Green Tea - it has less caffeine but it's a natural source to find it.

A protein shake but watch the sugar or water, sounds crazy for energy but the first signs of fatigue is dehydration.

Rochel isn't sold on an alternative for now because his go-to is working. "If I notice different signs in my health, I've stopped before, stopped drinking them completely, if there is more research that proves hey, your heart is going to explode if you drink this, I'll stop."

To further defend energy drinks, the American Beverage Association says most contain less caffeine than a similarly-sized coffee, you just have to read the label.

The McGovern Medical School in Houston plans to conduct a study in the future to see what happens to blood vessels when exercise is incorporated with drinking an energy drink.

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