A new medical case details how a young man suffered from heart failure after drinking up to four cans of energy drink each day for two years.
As reported in BMJ Case Reports this week, doctors at a hospital in London explain that the patient was rushed to intensive care after experiencing four months of worsening shortness of breath, breathlessness while lying down, and weight loss. Further probing found that he had also been suffering from bouts of indigestion, tremor, and heart palpitations in the past, but he didn’t seek medical attention.
The patient revealed that he habitually drank an average of four 500 milliliter cans of energy drink every day. He'd been drinking this much of the energy drink for the past two years.
In the new case study, the 21-year-old man details how this habit took a huge toll on his well-being, even forcing him to drop out of university because he was unable to concentrate on his studies. He also claims to have suffered from severe migraine headaches when he didn't consume any energy drinks, making it tough to kick the habit.
“I was eventually admitted to the ICU. This experience was extremely traumatizing for several reasons. First, I was suffering from delirium, I had memory problems to such an extent I could not remember why I was in the ICU. Second, I was constantly scared because I was struggling to move or speak, this eventually led to insomnia; I often would not fall asleep until early morning,” the patient explains.
“Finally, I often became frustrated when I couldn’t think of the words to say when I wanted something and this often led to me becoming overwhelmed with emotions such as anxiety and depression,” he adds.
Each can of energy drink contains approximately 160 milligrams of caffeine, meaning he was guzzling down at least 640 milligrams of caffeine each day. People’s tolerance to caffeine can vary due to a number of reasons, but it’s generally considered 400 milligrams a day — that's about four or five cups of coffee — can be consumed each day by a healthy adult with no problems.
Paired with the insights into his energy drink consumption, further medical tests brought the patient’s condition into focus. A number of blood tests, medical scans, and ECG readings revealed that he had both heart and kidney failure. It’s believed the kidney failure was related to another previously undiagnosed condition, but the doctors strongly suspect the severe heart problems were closely linked to his astonishing energy drink intake.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase activity in the heart. A couple of cups of coffee each morning or the occasional energy drink is unlikely to do anything but lightly lift your heart rate, but day-in-day-out overconsumption has been linked to cardiomyopathy, whereby the heart muscle weakens and is unable to pump blood to the rest of the body. Furthermore, energy drinks are also known to increase blood pressure, and can precipitate problems with heart rhythm, which could also lead to heart failure over time
The patient’s condition was so severe he was initially transferred for consideration of combined heart and kidney transplantation. Fortunately, his cardiac symptoms and function improved significantly with drug treatment and totally cutting his energy drinks consumption.
"I think there should be more awareness about energy drink and the effect of their contents. I believe they are very addictive and far too accessible to young children. I think warning labels, similar to smoking, should be made to illustrate the potential dangers of the ingredients in energy drink," the patient concluded.