Man, 21, Has Heart Failure After Having Four Energy Drinks a Day for Years

A 21-year-old man suffered heart failure after drinking four energy drink cans every day for around two years, according to a case report.

The authors of the paper, published in the journal BMJ Case Reports, said the experience of the young man adds to mounting concerns about the potential cardiovascular dangers of energy drinks in susceptible individuals.

The authors reported that the man suffered from biventricular heart failure—where both sides of the heart are affected—potentially related to excessive energy drink consumption.

The patient eventually ended up in intensive care after experiencing four months of shortness of breath on exertion, breathlessness while lying down, and weight loss.

He had been drinking an average of four 500ml energy drink cans every day, each of which contains roughly 160 milligrams of caffeine, as well as a protein called taurine and several other ingredients.

In the three months prior to being hospitalized, the young man had felt so unwell and lethargic that he was forced to discontinue his university studies.

The man said in the case report: "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."

After being hospitalized, tests revealed that the man had both heart and kidney failure. His condition was so severe that medical staff considered him for a dual organ transplant.

"I was eventually admitted to the ICU," the patient said. "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.

"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."

The man was discharged from hospital 58 days after his initial presentation, according to the report. His heart symptoms and function improved significantly with drug treatments and after he completely stopped drinking energy drinks.

The authors said the patient will likely need a kidney transplant at some point. They also wrote "it is difficult to predict the clinical course of recovery or potential for relapse."

The man had no medical history other than excessive intake of energy drinks, according to the report.

The authors say the case report adds to the growing concern regarding the potentially harmful effects of energy drinks on the heart. While this is only one report, several other cases have been documented where individuals developed heart problems that may have been related to the consumption of these drinks.

While energy drinks are growing in popularity around the world, the impact of excessive and chronic use of such products on the cardiovascular system remains poorly understood.

The authors say that overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system due to the ingestion of caffeine could potentially contribute to heart failure. Meanwhile, energy drinks are known to raise blood pressure and can also trigger heart rhythm abnormalities.

"Clear warnings should be provided about the potential cardiovascular dangers of energy drink consumption in large amounts," the authors said.

The patient also said that there should be more awareness about energy drinks and the potential effects of their contents.

"I believe they are very addictive and far too accessible to young children," the young man said.

An energy drink can
Stock image showing an energy drink can. A case report has documented how a 21-year-old man suffered heart failure after drinking four energy drink cans every day for around two years. iStock