Q: I heard that energy drinks with amino acids in them could hurt my heart. I didn't think they could market something so risky. What gives?
— Benny B., Plano, Texas
A: We've been cautioning you against these superchargers 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 about 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 throughout 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. 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.
Still need a boost? Drink black coffee. One alternative to coffee is caffeinated water (45-90 mg in 12-16 ounces). And to keep your energy up all day, eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables. In a blender with a little ice, it's called a smoothie!
Q: The holidays are over, and I have to figure out how to feel less pressured and less stressed about what I think I need to buy. Help!