Blood clots warning: Popular UK drink shown to narrow blood vessels within 90 minutes

British Heart Foundation: Understanding blood clots

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Blood clots are gel-like clumps of blood. They are beneficial when they form in response to an injury or a cut, plugging the injured blood vessel, which stops bleeding. However, some blood clots can form inside your veins when your blood vessels become narrowed. These types of clots increase your risk of serious cardiovascular complications, such as heart attack or stroke. According to findings presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2018, energy drinks could dramatically kickstart this process.

Researchers have found that within 90 minutes of taking an energy drink the internal diameter of the blood vessels is reduced by 50 percent on an average.

The caffeine and sugar present in such drinks are to blame for this phenomenon, the study researchers claimed.

A team of researchers from the University of Texas at Houston looked at 44 students in their 20s from McGovern Medical School at UT Health.

The participants were non-smokers and were generally found to be healthy.

Endothelium is the layer that lines the inner walls of the blood vessels and its damage plays an important role in several cardiovascular diseases.

The effect of these drinks on healthy endothelium was tested in this study.

Each of the participants underwent an examination to check for their endothelial function and then offered a 24-ounce energy drink.

After 90 minutes the endothelial function was tested again. Ultrasound was used to check for arterial blood flow, inner diameter of the arteries and overall health of the blood vessel.

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In 90 minutes the inner diameter of the arteries was found to be reduced by half on average – from 5.1 percent to 2.8 percent.

The effect was noted to be due to the excess caffeine, taurine and sugar content of these drinks. Other herbal components of the drink also affected the endothelial layer, noted the researchers.

The main offender was found to be sugar. Such high amounts of sugar can lead to blood vessel contraction explained the researchers.

Caffeine too has also been found to be responsible for contraction of blood vessels by releasing adrenaline – a hormone that causes the heart to pump up and raises blood pressure.

These energy drinks contain around 80mg of caffeine per 250 ml of the drink. This is equivalent to around 2.5 cans of cola.

Why narrowed blood vessels are dangerous

Narrowed blood vessels restrict the flow of blood around the body.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), if blood flows too slowly and it starts to build up, large numbers of blood platelets may group together and stick to each other, forming a blood clot.

“It is also not uncommon for them to form because the inner walls of blood vessels are damaged, for example in atherosclerosis,” explains the NIH.

Atherosclerosis is thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque in the inner lining of an artery.

If left to get worse, atherosclerosis can potentially lead to a number of serious conditions known as cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Blood clots – how to spot them

Symptoms of a blood clot include throbbing or cramping pain, swelling, redness and warmth in a leg or arm.

“Blood clots can be life threatening if not treated quickly,” warns the NHS.

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