The facts about 5-hour Energy shots

5-hour Energy is a caffeinated drink with added vitamins and substances touted to be more beneficial than coffee in boosting alertness, but the claims are unsubstantiated and the product could pose some harm.

These cleverly marketed 2-ounce shots promise to increase focus without a subsequent crash. According to the commercials, the shots provide “beneficial nutrients found in everyday foods like avocado, bananas and broccoli,” suggesting it is superior to the lowly coffee bean.

According to The National Coffee Association, 54 percent of U.S. adults drink coffee daily and spends, on average, $164.71 a year on coffee. Living Essentials, the parent company of 5-hour Energy, is targeting this market –– and making a dent. The company claims more than 7 million people use 5-hour Energy drinks a week.

Marketing is aimed at stressed moms, shift workers, tired students and others. What’s lacking in the advertising is proof the stuff is worth three times the price of a cup of Joe.

The claims boast the drink doesn’t contain sugar like some coffees. However, it does have the artificial sweetener sucralose and the preservative sodium benzoate, which has been shown to decrease attention span in children in a study published in The Lancet.

The drink provides ‘super doses’ of some B vitamins: 8,333 percent of the recommended daily amount of B12; 2,000 percent of B6 and 150 percent of niacin.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there is no evidence B12 supplements increase energy or endurance, except in people with a deficiency, and B6 in amounts greater than 100 milligrams per day (the equivalent of three 5-hour Energy shots) can cause adverse effects like nerve damage to the arms and legs.

The upper limit for folic acid is 1,000 micrograms, which is equal to two and a half shots. Our government has been enriching grains with folic acid for a decade in an effort to prevent birth defects. At the same time, researchers have found cancer rates increasing and attribute this to too much folic acid. They warn adults who are not of childbearing age to avoid taking high doses of folic acid in supplement form.

The so-called “energy blend” also in the 5-hour Energy drink consists of amino acids and other substances needed in small amounts by the body. There is no credible evidence to support the claim they boost energy.

A healthy diet will provide all of the nutrients found in this drink with the added benefit of health-promoting phytonutrients found only in plant foods –– not isolated vitamins packaged into a drink.

The main factor that drives alertness in the 5-hour Energy drink is simply caffeine –– an amount equivalent to one cup of coffee. But, like vitamins, caffeine alone does not provide the beneficial phytonutrients found in whole coffee beans. Excessive intake of caffeine from any source can drive up blood pressure, which can adversely affect the heart.

Although 5-hour Energy has not been directly linked to heart problems, it would be wise to eat bananas and broccoli, enjoy your java and stay clear of 5-hour Energy shots.

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