Energy drinks and heart risk | Health – The Union Leader

IN THE satirical film “Idiocracy,” an energy drink called Brawndo, “the Thirst Mutilator,” has completely replaced water, which is used only to flush toilets. But then, it’s a world in which everyone is living “la vida idioca.”

In the U.S., too, a lot of people are drinking juiced-up, sweetened (or artificially sweetened) energy drinks. A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association reveals that about 30% of kids 12-17 down energy drinks regularly, and almost 45% of our military personnel drink at least one a day — 14% drink three or more. Total expenditures predicted this year: $3.14 billion! All that “energy” is bad for some folks’ heart.

The study found that people drinking 32 ounces of caffeinated energy drinks saw sustained spikes in blood pressure and a change in their so-called QT interval (the time between heart beats), which can trigger life-threatening arrhythmia.

The researchers say caffeine in the drinks isn’t to blame for cardio changes — 32 ounces contains less than the 400 mg that might trigger such problems. The heart issues happen because the drinks contain ingredients that haven’t been properly investigated, such as taurine (an amino acid) and glucuronolactone (a naturally occurring byproduct of glucose breakdown).

Want a better beverage to boost your energy? Try green tea. While it has some caffeine, green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that may have anti-anxiety effects. Studies suggest that L-theanine and caffeine together could improve brain function. That’ll defeat idiocracy.