Drinking energy drinks could have a positive effect on heart muscles, according to Italian research.
Despite previous studies suggesting energy drinks could increase blood pressure and heart disease risk, Dr Matteo Cameli from the University of Siena said they could actually help the heart.
"In recent years the energy drink market has exploded, with more people than ever before turning to these products as quick 'pick me ups', whether to stay awake during all night study vigils or gain the edge in sport," Dr Cameli said in a media release.
"With energy drinks containing both caffeine and taurine, concerns have been raised of adverse effects on the heart. While caffeine increases blood pressure, studies suggest that taurine may stimulate the release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum."
Using speckle-tracking echocardiography –– the latest innovation in heart ultrasound technology –– Cameli gave 35 healthy adults, with an average age of 25, 168ml/m2 of energy drink that contained caffeine and taurine.
The researchers looked at the participants' heart rate, blood pressure, left ventricular function and right ventricular function before they drank the drink and again one hour after consumption.
After an hour, they found left and right ventricular function had improved. Heart rate and blood pressure had increased slightly, but the researchers said it was not significant.
"Taken together these results show that energy drinks enhance contractions of both the left and right ventricles, thereby delivering a positive effect on myocardial function," Dr Cameli said.
Cameli hyopthesised that taurine stimulates the release of calcium, which helps heart muscle contractions.
"Our study was performed in young healthy individuals at rest. Future studies need to focus on whether such benefits persist after long-term consumption of energy drinks, and what the effects are of consuming these drinks during physical activity," Cameli said.
"It will also be important to determine which of the effects are induced in patients with cardiac disease to further our understanding of the potential benefits or risks of energy drink consumption."
Dr Robert Grenfell, clinical issues director at the Heart Foundation, told ninemsn more research needs to be done into the long term effects of drinking energy drinks.
"Energy drinks have the potential to increase your heart rate and blood pressure in the short term, but the long term effects are unknown," he said.
"Elevated and sustained high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease. While energy drinks do contain high doses of caffeine, the wide range of other ingredients plus the fact that the drinks are often mixed with alcohol makes it hard to pinpoint a single ingredient as the cause."