For Ariel Porto, opting for 5-Hour Energy Shots saved her MCAT score.
“This past summer, I switched from coffee to energy drinks during my practice tests because it meant less fluids I was taking in — which meant fewer bathroom breaks,” said the 21-year-old UF psychology senior.
Although Porto doesn’t consume as many energy drinks now that she’s completed the MCAT, she realizes there may be risks associated with the high-caffeinated drinks.
In fact, sipping on energy drinks may lead to high blood pressure and a change in heart rhythms, according to a study presented at a 2013 scientific session hosted by the American Heart Association in New Orleans last week.
The study, which has not been published, examined the QT interval — the measure of time it takes to complete the electrical cycle in the heart — of a pool of participants who consumed energy drinks.
The participants of the study were young, healthy 18- to 45- year-olds who did not have any known heart disease.
Blood pressure increased an average of 3.5 points while the QT interval was 10 milliseconds longer than those who did not consume energy drinks, according to the study.
Dr. Gordon Tomaselli, the chief of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and former president of the American Heart Association, said both normal, healthy people and especially those with heart disease are at risk.
“The concern obviously is that these cardiovascular effects certainly can have some influence, particularly in people who have pre-existing heart disease, while those who are otherwise healthy get away with it,” he said.
For college students, doctors at UF recommend opting for other sources of caffeine and staying away from energy drinks.
“I certainly would do all that I could to avoid [energy drinks] until we know more about this,” said Dr. Carl Pepine, a professor of medicine at UF.
Contact Sarah Kinonen at [email protected].