Q: I heard that energy drinks with amino acids in them could hurt my heart. What gives?
BENNY B., Plano, Texas
A: We've been cautioning against these super-chargers for a while. In the U.S., the number of emergency-room visits they cause has doubled in four years - in 2011 it hit more than 20,000.
And now, the latest test using cardiac MRIs has revealed how your heart reacts about an hour after you have an energy drink that contains the amino acid taurine. Eighteen healthy volunteers (15 men, three women) around age 27 drank the equivalent of a 16-ounce energy drink. The MRI then measured what researchers called significantly increased peak systolic strain in the left ventricle as the heart contracted and sent oxygenated blood through the body.
Anyone with a history of cardiac problems and kids, whose heart muscles are still developing, are at the greatest risk from these drinks. But we need more data: We're not sure how many minutes or hours the drink keeps your left ventricle contracting more intensely. And we need to know how that affects the general population's risks for heart attack, stroke, dementia and cancer.
So our advice is to skip energy drinks with the words "amino acids" on the label and any that contain lecithin, creatine, taurine, phenylalanine, citicoline, tyrosine or choline.
To really keep your energy up all day, eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.