A new study suggests energy drinks may contribute to future heart problems. But is coffee any safer? 

Is your favorite energy drink hurting your heart? New research has found that energy drinks can raise blood pressure to harmful levels, with non-coffee-drinkers suffering some of the worst effects. In the study, led by Dr. Anna Svatikova of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., commercially available energy drinks were served to 25 healthy volunteers ranging in age from 19 to 40. Then, on a different day, the study participants drank the same amount of a placebo drink. The research team measured their heart rates and blood pressure before and after they consumed the drinks, then compared the results.

The study found that the participants’ blood pressure spiked higher after drinking the energy drinks than after drinking the placebo. In fact, their systolic blood pressure, the top number of a blood pressure reading, increased by an average of 3 percent more. The effect was most remarkable in those who weren’t regular caffeine drinkers. For these participants, the increase in blood pressure was twice as high as for those who drank coffee daily.

Does that mean you need to dump your favorite energy drink? It’s hard to say. While 3 percent may seem like a small number, even slight increases in blood pressure can have serious consequences depending on certain risk factors. “An acute, moderate increase in blood pressure is typically not a cause of worry in healthy subjects,” Sachin Shah, an associate professor of pharmacy at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., told Huffington Post. However, Shah explains that such an increase is cause for concern particularly among older people or those already suffering hypertension. An increase of three or four points on systolic blood pressure could significantly increase the risk of death from stroke.

But doesn’t coffee have the same effects? Actually, no. A separate study presented last year at the American Heart Association Meeting found that healthy volunteers experienced a greater increase in blood pressure after consuming energy drinks than after drinking coffee beverages containing the same amount of caffeine. This suggests that caffeine may not be the sole culprit.

According to the Mayo Clinic, adults can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. That’s quite a lot: Roughly four cups of coffee, or two “energy shot” drinks, would cover that amount. But it’s the non-coffee option that seems to yield the most concerning results in terms of potential heart risks. Scientists still don’t know what exactly it is about energy drinks that seems to adversely affect the heart, whether it’s the caffeine, taurine, or a combination of ingredients.

No doubt scientists will continue to investigate the potential effects of non-coffee energy drinks. Prior research has suggested that energy drinks may also be linked to memory and learning problems, hallucinations, irregular heart rhythms, risk-taking behaviors and even substance abuse. Hopefully, more research will lead to better understanding and healthier formulas. We’re already facing a global coffee shortage. They can’t take everything away from us!

Do you reach for an energy drink or coffee when you need a boost? Comment below and let us know!

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