Energy drinks are the fuel that gets many of us through the workday or school day. The combination of sugar and caffeine provides an immediate energy burst that helps us power through when we’re feeling tired. What people may not realize, however, is that these drinks can potentially do some serious damage to the body.

Researchers at the United States Air Force Hospital recently conducted a study to examine the effects of energy drinks on a person’s heart. The study was conducted because they noticed an uptick of people coming to the Emergency Room with heart-related issues. They began to think that energy drink consumption was somehow related to these heart issues.

The idea sparked because 75 percent of people on the base had confirmed that they drink energy drinks. That’s a huge spike in just the past few years without any research done to examine just how these drinks impact the body.

The doctors split up young participants into two groups. One group was given just under a liter of energy drink per day, while the other group was given a drink that contained just caffeine without the sugar and other additives found in energy drinks. It was flavored, however, just like an energy drink so participants had no idea who was drinking what.

Researchers found that the energy drinks contributed to issues with the rhythm of the drinkers’ hearts. They found that the energy drinks caused heart ‘pausing’ for an extra 10 milliseconds between beats. While this sounds minor, it can actually be life-threatening.

Energy drinks also caused high blood pressure in people just two hours after consuming the beverage. This elevated blood pressure continued for up to six hours after a person finished their drink. This puts a person at increased risk for heart attack or stroke, even in an otherwise healthy person.

These problems were not found in people who just had the caffeine drink. Researchers aren’t completely clear on what in the energy drinks led to these problems, but they speculate it’s a combination of the sugar mixed with the caffeine. It may, however, be any one of the numerous additives these drinks contain.

While the researchers concede that more studies will need to be done before conclusions can be drawn about the safety of energy drinks, these initial findings are eye-opening. Considering many people drink a can or two (or more) of energy drinks each day, the cumulative health effects could be catastrophic.

This is especially true in children. Many parents let their kids drink energy drinks in the morning before school or as a special treat on the weekends. It’s unclear exactly what effect these drinks may have on still-developing bodies, but parents should think long and hard before letter their children consume these drinks on a regular basis.

If you’re someone who drinks energy drinks on a regular basis, it may be a good idea to cut back. Until further research is done to test their safety, it may be wise to just stick to coffee.