University student suffered heart failure after drinking four cans of energy drink per day

The unnamed patient said that he ‘suffered from tremors and heart palpitations’ when he was drinking four energy drinks a day

A 21 year old university student has developed heart failure after “excessive” consumption of energy drinks, a new British Medical Journal (BMJ) Case Report suggests.

According to the report, the man drank four 500ml energy drinks a day for two years before needing hospital treatment for heart failure.

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‘Excessive energy drink consumption’

A 21-year-old university student developed heart failure after "excessive" consumption of energy drinks, a new article in a leading medical journal suggests (Photo: Yui Mok/PA)

The university student required intensive care treatment, and was so ill that medics were considering whether he would need an organ transplant.

The man sought medical care after suffering for four months with shortness of breath and weight loss. Blood tests, scans and ECG readings revealed that he had both heart and kidney failure, with the kidney failure linked to a long standing and previously undiagnosed condition.

The authors from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust wrote: “We report a case of severe biventricular heart failure potentially related to excessive energy drink consumption in a 21 year old man.”

They explain that the man did not have a medical history, other than excessive intake of energy drinks, and highlighted that each can that the man was drinking contained 160mg of caffeine.

The doctors treating him considered a number of diagnoses, but concluded: “Energy drink induced cardiotoxicity was felt to be the most likely cause.”

‘Potential cardiotoxic effects of energy drinks’

The authors of the report said that in the three months prior to his hospital admission, the man was unable to continue his university studies due to his lethargy and feelings of ill health.

He spent 58 days in hospital, including a stint in the intensive care unit, which he described as “traumatising”.

The report said: “This case report adds to the growing concern in the literature about the potential cardiotoxic effects of energy drinks.”

After nine months, the man's heart function appears to have returned with “mildly impaired function”.

‘Tremors and heart palpitations’

The patient, who has not been named, added his own thoughts to the article, and called for more warning labels on drinks.

He wrote: “When I was drinking up to four energy drinks per day, I suffered from tremors and heart palpitations, which interfered with my ability to concentrate on daily tasks and my studies at university.

“I also suffered from severe migraine headaches which would often occur during the periods when I did not drink energy drinks; this also restricted my ability to perform day to day tasks and even leisurely activities such as going to the park or taking a walk.

“I was eventually admitted to the intensive care unit. This experience was extremely traumatising.

“I think there should be more awareness about energy drinks 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 drinks.”

‘Daily use of energy drinks among young people’

The study comes after a separate report, published in the journal Plos One, highlighted the consumption of energy drinks among teenagers.

Academics at Cardiff University analysed the responses of a health survey of more than 176,000 secondary school children in Wales, aged between 11 and 16.

The data, drawn from responses between 2013 and 2017, showed that six per cent of pupils said that they drank energy drinks on a “daily” basis - a trend which didn’t change over time.

Lead author of the study, Dr Kelly Morgan, said: “The daily use of energy drinks among a proportion of young people has not declined - and our study reveals a widening disparity in consumption rates between those from low and high socioeconomic groups.

“Marketing campaigns for energy drinks are often aimed at those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. They are also an affordable choice and regularly available at cheaper prices than bottled water.

“Their popularity is unlikely to wane unless legislative and policy measures are put in place.”