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Too Much of This Popular Drink Caused a 21-Year-Old To Have Heart Failure, Says New Study

Researchers say "most consumers are not aware" of the dangers, symptoms, and ingredients to look out for.

For decades, there's been debate over a particular type of beverage whose branding often targets young people. Medical professionals say the results of a new case study are proof that some concerns about this type of drink are founded, after researchers have looked in-depth at a case of heart and kidney failure in an otherwise-healthy young man.

BMJ Case Reports has published a case study led by a research team of cardiovascular and cardiology professionals in the U.K. The researchers have assessed what caused a 21-year-old male patient to present to the healthcare setting with "severe" renal (kidney) failure, abdominal swelling, urinary retention, and severe enlargement of both kidneys, along with shortness of breath.

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A medical team performed an examination to discover the patient's heart was not properly pumping blood and required immediate intervention, admitting him to the ICU. Meanwhile, the patient recalled several recent months of weight loss, fever, and fatigue that made it impossible for him to continue his university studies, while his doctor had treated his symptoms with antibiotics.

A review of his family and personal history found, as the report states, "history of regular 'energy drink' drink consumption, specifically consuming an average of four 500-milliliter cans per day for approximately two years." A review of the kind he drank showed the researchers that each can contained 160 milligrams of caffeine, in addition to the amino acid taurine and "various other ingredients."

He was treated for the heart condition and underwent a course of dialysis and other treatments, while recalling that in recent months he'd experienced tremor, a racing heart, insomnia, indigestion, and migraine headaches when he hadn't drunk the beverage.

The researchers say this case highlights that "most consumers are not aware" of the "wide range of potential harmful health effects including cardiovascular dysfunction and heart failure" that some energy drinks have been shown to cause. The patient offered his own perspective as part of the report: "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."

We've reported that in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate energy drinks, so it's up to consumers to get the facts. Check out our list of a few ingredients to watch out for before you pick up a can.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more about Krissy