Just one energy drink can cause potentially harmful spikes in both stress hormone levels and blood pressure in healthy young adults, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Lead researcher Dr Anna Svatikova, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said that after drinking a 16-ounce can of “Rockstar Punched,” young adults had a 74 percent increase in blood levels of the “fight-or-flight” hormone norepinephrine.
That’s more than double an average 30 percent increase in norepinephrine that the same participants experienced when they consumed a sham energy drink, according to Svatikova.
The fake energy drink contained the same amount of sugar and nearly the same calories, but did not include natural stimulants found in the Rockstar drink, she said.
The stimulants in the real energy drink included caffeine, the amino acid taurine, and extracts of guarana seed, ginseng root, and milk thistle.
According to the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), energy drinks can contain up to five times more caffeine than a typical cup of coffee.
The study found that the young adults also experienced a significant rise in blood pressure after consuming the energy drink.
“The worry is that if these responses are seen in healthy young people, perhaps the effects of energy drinks may be more pronounced in people who already have high blood pressure or arrhythmias, leading to more heart attacks and strokes,” Svatikova noted.
These drinks, which are marketed as beverages that can boost physical and mental performance, are growing in popularity, particularly among adolescents and young adults in the United States and beyond.