A Young Man Drank Four Energy Drinks a Day. It Almost Killed Him.
Bang, C4, Monster, Wicked, Rockstar, Reign, Amp... The gaudy brand names of popular energy drinks radiate explosive excitement. But be careful, when consumed habitually in high amounts, these drinks could wreck your heart.
A 21-year-old man in the United Kingdom visited a London hospital after four months of experiencing shortness of breath during exertion and when lying down. He was also plagued by weight loss, migraines, and insomnia. Blood tests and internal scans soon revealed him to be in both kidney and heart failure. But why?
While the man had previously smoked, he had abstained for more than three years. Moreover, he had no family history of heart disease. However, his doctors soon gleaned that he was a regular consumer of energy drinks, downing an average of four large cans each day for roughly two years.
Loaded with caffeine, as well as other compounds like taurine, guarana, and carnitine, energy drinks are generally sweet, stimulating slurries of unregulated supplements, many with unknown effects on the human body. Evidence is starting to show that downing these concoctions regularly in large amounts can be harmful.
While one-a-day is likely safe for the vast majority of consumers, four-a-day clearly wasn't for the 21-year-old man. He was transferred the to the intensive care unit (ICU) and put on kidney dialysis and blood thinners. Though stabilized in the ICU, his heart and kidneys remained in dire straits. Doctors began exploring options for both a heart and kidney transplant. Thankfully, as early preparations to access the suitability of a kidney transplant were underway, the 21-year-old's kidney and heart function started to improve.
Over the ensuing days and weeks, he got better and better, and about two months after seeking medical attention, he was discharged from the hospital with various medications and instructions to avoid energy drinks. Months later, his health had significantly improved, but his doctors note that he will almost certainly need a kidney transplant at some point.
The man's case adds to the swelling literature of people, often very young, undergoing heart failure associated with imbibing energy drinks.
"The underlying mechanism of energy drink-induced heart failure remains unclear," the authors say. Chronically high amounts of caffeine consumption likely plays a role, as it can overstimulate the heart. Energy drinks are also known to increase blood pressure. They also seem to mess with the heart's electrical signaling.
"This case report adds to the growing concern in the literature about the potential cardiotoxic effects of energy drinks, which should be considered when assessing young patients presenting with a non-ischaemic dilated cardiomyopathy," the authors conclude.
Source: Fisk G, Hammond-Haley M, D'Silva A. "Energy drink-induced cardiomyopathy." BMJ Case Reports CP 2021;14:e239370.