More information about text formats
The association between heart failure and energy drink consumption is based on the entire clinical course rather than the presentation alone. The patient remains in renal failure with renal biochemistry similar to presentation and has not received renal replacement therapy for some time. Despite this, the patient is no longer in heart failure with a significant improvement in cardiac function occurring prior to the introduction of heart failure medications - carvedilol, hydralazine and isosorbide dinitrite. The clinical course of spontaneous recovery was similar to the cited case report from Belzile and colleagues and hence our reason for bringing this to attention and contributing to greater awareness. We welcome the comments and debate as there is no test to confirm the relationship to energy drink intake and therefore extensive clinical characterisation is required to exclude alternative causes of severe heart failure. Severe heart failure which improves spontaneously to this magnitude - LVEF 9% to 51% is particularly rare.
The authors implicate caffeine as the causative agent of the cardiomyopathy in this case, caffeine being the main active ingredient within energy drinks. They ask that we enquire about energy drinks within our social histories; consumption of caffeinated products indeed not part of a standard cardiovascular history (1).
It is therefore conspicuous that within the article there are no calls to enquire about other, more widely used caffeine containing products, specifically tea and coffee. Dare I say, we would be unlikely to baulk at the idea of a patient drinking three or four coffees in a day. In fact, on the wards we offer patients tea or coffee eight times a day, yet think little of the caffeine burden we are imposing upon them. This almost tacit caffeine consumption is unlikely to make it into the medical notes, yet these patients would potentially be consuming levels of caffeine far in excess of the quantity consumed in this case report.
We seem to apply different value judgements to different drinks, assuming those drinking excess caffeine from expensive coffee machines are doing so knowingly, and as part of a healthy lifestyle. Yet we don’t afford those choosing to consume energy drinks with the same level of ability to make an informed choice. We medicalise the consumption of such drinks, assuming those using them must be doing so for sinister reasons.
We should treat all caffeinated products equally, given there is no pharmacological differen...
We should treat all caffeinated products equally, given there is no pharmacological difference between them. Indeed, the caffeine found in energy drinks is extracted from coffee; a by-product of decaffeinated coffee production.
Further, I feel it unfair to suggest manufactures should provide warnings on cans, given that they already do – displaying both caffeine content, and warnings about its excessive consumption in certain groups. Indeed, these warnings and caffeine contents are absent from the sides of tea and coffee packaging, therein further preventing us from quantifying caffeine consumption.
That said, it is undeniable that the caffeine content of these drinks has increased over time, and it is not an unreasonable assumption that caffeine is to blame for the symptoms described in this case. Twenty years ago, the humble initial offerings of these drinks were a 250ml can with 75mg of caffeine. Today the bar has shifted to 200mg of caffeine in one can, and the market trend of increasing caffeine shows no signs of abating. This could be problematic, and lead to unwitting excess consumption as in this case report.
Direct regulation of these markets is often a wise solution. Rather than posting unheeded warnings of sugar content on the side of cans, the tax on sugar forced the hand of the market to adapt and reduce the sugar content within energy drinks, often to nil, and therein obviating the detrimental effects of sugar outright (2).
The same could be done for caffeine content; a cap of 20mg/100ml, or an overall cap of 100mg in any one drink would seem appropriate, though admittedly little can be done to stop people drinking multiple cans as in this case.
Like them or loathe them, these products do at least appeal to an ideal of activity, which should be celebrated in our overly sedentary society.
(1) Innes, J.A. et al., 2018. Macleod's Clinical Examination, Elsevier, pp.39-74
(2) Pell, D., Mytton, O., Penney, T.L., Briggs, A., Cummins, S., Penn-Jones, C., Rayner, M., Rutter, H., Scarborough, P., Sharp, S.J., Smith, R.D., White, M., Adams, J., 2021. Changes in soft drinks purchased by British households associated with the UK soft drinks industry levy: Controlled interrupted time series analysis. The BMJ 372. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n254