Energy drinks blamed for man's heart trouble

A lot of people down energy drinks for a quick boost, but the "intense" fix may not be worth the health risk.  One local man's caffeinated jolt sent him to the hospital, where he had a heart-stopping experience.

James Marois said he sipped two to five cans a day, until the chest pains came.  “I had pain in my chest and it was hard for me to breathe,” he said. “I’d have to take deep breaths a lot just to catch my breath.”

The 26-year-old said he thought he was in good health, until he began experiencing an irregular heartbeat and his girlfriend, Annie, had to rush him to the hospital.

Doctors couldn`t get his heart rhythm under control and they told him the only way they could was to literally stop his heart and then zap it with electricity to restart it.

“That’s scary, to watch someone you love go through that and (realize) they may not wake up,” Annie said.

Marois did wake up. But he also feels fortunate to be alive. Last month, a teenage girl in Maryland drank two energy drinks and suffered an irregular heartbeat and died. The cause of death was determined to be heart arrhythmia caused by toxic levels of caffeine.

Dr. Marvin Wayne said there’s no way to know just how much caffeine is in the drinks, because they contain several supplements that the body perceives as caffeine, and they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

“The reality is people have no idea what they`re actually drinking -- 5-hour Energy, Red Bull, Monster drinks, all of these different things but all of them have different proportion of different things in them,” Wayne said.

Several studies have found that people who drink two or more energy drinks a day have an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. For some people, like Marois, that can cause life-threatening problems.

“I really dodged a bullet this time,” Marois said.

The family of the teen who died in Maryland is circulating a petition to push for regulations on energy drinks. And there is enough concern in the country of Australia that the federal government there is reviewing guidelines about caffeine that is added to foods and drinks.