Energy drinks may boost more than just your energy. Findings from a small pilot study suggested that these liquid pick-me-ups may quickly raise blood pressure and norepinephrine levels (norepinephrine is a “fight or flight” stress hormone). The findings were reported on in the journal JAMA. The study involved 25 healthy men and women who were over 18, non-smokers, and not taking any medications. The participants were assigned to consume a 16-ounce energy drink or a 16-ounce placebo drink over a five-minute period. On a separate day, within two weeks of the first test, every participant consumed the opposite drink and the test was repeated. The placebo drink was similar to the energy drink in its nutritional content, taste, texture, and color, but didn’t contain any stimulants, such as caffeine, taurine, ginseng, or guarana. Prior to each study day, the participants didn’t ingest any caffeine or alcohol for 24 hours. To assess the effects of the drinks, researchers measured the participants’ blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, caffeine, and norepinephrine levels before they consumed their drinks and 30 minutes afterwards. Here is what the researchers found:
After the participants consumed the energy drink, their average blood pressure rose by 6.4%. In contrast, after drinking the placebo, their average blood pressure rose by only 1%.
After the participants consumed the energy drink, their average norepinephrine levels rose by 73.6%. In contrast, after drinking the placebo, their average norepinephrine levels rose by only 30.9%.
Caffeine levels were higher after they consumed the energy drink compared with the placebo drink, but their heart rates were similar after the two drinks.
It’s important to note that this pilot study measured only the immediate effects of one commercially available energy drink. Future research will help clarify any dangers associated with these short-term changes and help define safe limits of consumption. In addition, longer and larger studies are needed to establish the long-term effects of regular energy drink consumption and the health implications of their use over time. Since previous research has linked energy drinks with dangerous heart problems in children, this study may be worthy of the buzz.