5-hourThree state attorney generals have filed lawsuits against the maker of the 5-hour Energy drink that reportedly sells an estimated $1 billion of the little 2-oz bottles.   The attorney generals claim that the seller falsely states that its  non-caffeine ingredients give people extra energy and alertness and that it lied when it said that physicians support its use.   But there’s more to this story than some allegedly overzealous state attorneys targeting an energy drink.  The drink has been mentioned in at least 90 filings with The Food and Drug Administration and is suspected of being linked to 13 deaths over the years. Another energy drink, Monster Energy, has also been suspected of contributing to serious injuries and death, although most energy drinks contain the same basic ingredients:  sugar, caffeine and Vitamin B    Increasingly, these “energy drinks” are being viewed as a health hazard.

When many people need an energy boost at the office, at home or before a workout, they turn to the energy supplement 5 Hour Energy. The 2-ounce energy shot contains a combination of caffeine, B vitamins and amino acids, along with some flavorings and preservatives.   Energy drinks, like 5-Hour Energy, are also used by many teens and adults as a chaser after consuming large amounts of alcohol…..resulting in a frightening lot of of caffeine-jolted inebriates behind the wheel.   Thirteen deaths have linked to the 2-oz bottles of 5-Hour Energy , with an additional 33 hospitalizations. It’s no surprise that the federal Food and Drug Administration has called into question the safety of this supplement.

One of the more common side-effects of 5 Hour Energy is what’s known as a niacin flush. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, this reaction normally occurs when 50 milligrams or more of niacin are ingested. The original 5 Hour Energy contains 30 milligrams of niacin, and the extra-strength version contains 40 milligrams. A niacin flush is caused by increased blood flow to the skin and can include burning or tingling sensations in the face and chest and red-flushed skin. One way to reduce this symptom is to take an aspirin about 30 minutes before taking niacin.

The New York Times reports that from 2009 to late 2012, the FDA received some 90 filings of serious injury and 13 reports of death that cited the possible involvement of 5 Hour Energy. While an incident report filed with the FDA is not conclusive proof that a product was responsible for a death or injury, it does speak to the unknown nature of the possible effects of 5 Hour Energy. Dr. Brent Bauer, Mayo Clinic director of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, is quoted as saying, “These energy shots have over a dozen ingredients all together, and consumers are ingesting them at very high doses, but there is no research of how the ingredients react all together.”

One of the advertised benefits of 5-Hour Energy is that it contains no sugar or net carbs. Instead, 5-Hour Energy contains sucralose, an artificial sweetener that is approximately 600 times sweeter than sugar. (editor’s note:  Sucralose belongs to a group of chemicals known as organochlorides, some of which are poisonous to plants and animals).  However, sucralose is generally considered safe for human consumption and has not been shown to accumulate in the body and cause toxicity like other chemicals from this group.  It also claims to provide more than 8,000% of the recommended daily intake for B12.   Sorry, but you don’t need three years’ worth of vitamin b12 in one shot.  Some other ingredients in 5-Hour Energy includes the preservative EDTA which is actually used to make lighter fluid……..you can figure out the rest.

All three states’ attorneys general are seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting 5-Hour Energy’s allegedly deceptive marketing practices, as well as civil penalties and restitution to consumers. A number of other states are expected to file similar suits in the coming weeks.    If you happened to be seized by the urge to down one of these $3 boost bombs, you might want to put just a smidge more thought into what you are doing to your body and to the profitability of one of our modern snake-oil merchants.