5-hour Energy appealing for energy burst, but could it be deadly?

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In the past four years, 13 deaths have been reported to the Food and Drug Administration citing possible involvement of 5-hour Energy shots.

The company’s website states, “The key ingredients in 5-hour Energy are also available in every day foods — like broccoli, avocados, bananas and apples — are already in you.”

Shombree Wojcik, a public relations major from California, thought listing natural foods and comparing them to the ingredients in 5-hour Energy was an interesting marketing strategy.

“When you say a product is made from the same ingredients as organic foods, it instills an almost immediate trust in the consumer,” Wojcik said. “You are less likely to hesitate in purchasing it because that would be like questioning whether or not eating cucumber is good for you. People need to make sure they’re getting the whole story.”

The nutritional facts for 5-hour Energy, as displayed on their website include Vitamin B6, B12 and B3 or Niacin. Dr. John Vaughn and Adam Brandeberry discussed the supplement on Ohio State University’s Student Health Services blog.

“It has never been proven that having extra (of the B vitamins) will help you —or increase your energy,” they said. “And while unlikely to be dangerous, an excess of Vitamin B3 (Niacin) can produce that uncomfortable flushing sensation. In addition, consuming 200 mg or more of Vitamin B6, about 5 bottles, could impair the normal functioning of your nerves and muscles.”

5-hour Energy’s website does have recommended use instructions that state you should not drink more than two bottles per day. Two bottles would keep you under the dangerous amount of Vitamin B that Dr. Vaughn and Brandberry mentioned, but if there is no regulation then there is nothing to prevent people from consuming too much of the supplement.

Their website also gives the following disclaimer: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” If their recommended use instructions, as well as the product itself, have not been evaluated by the FDA, then how does a consumer know if two shots is even safe?

According to Forbes magazine, the company that produces the product, Living Essentials, grossed over $600 million last year as the dominating force taking 90 percent of the energy-shot market.

How is a product that so obviously dominates its market not regulated by the FDA? It is covered by the FDA’s very own Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. Any product using natural ingredients and markets itself as a “dietary supplement” gets to bypass the need to get the FDA’s approval, which is why the product’s claims of effectiveness aren’t and do not have to be substantiated by FDA testing.

While FDA approval is not required, an investigative story on the energy shots by The New York Times stated, “Since late 2008, producers of dietary supplements are required to notify the FDA when they become aware of a death or serious injury that may be related to their product.”

Thirteen fatality reports mentioning 5-hour Energy were submitted by Living Essentials.

According to a summary of FDA records reviewed and reported in The New York Times, “Since 2009, 5-hour Energy has been mentioned in some 90 filings with the FDA, including more than 30 that involved serious or life-threatening injuries like heart attacks, convulsions and, in one case, a spontaneous abortion.”

The filing of these incident reports does not mean 5-hour Energy was responsible for the deaths or injuries. In a statement released in response to the most recent 13 reports filed, Elaine Lutz, spokesperson for Living Essentials, addressed the reports and the supplement’s accountability.

“It is important to note that submitting a serious adverse event report to the FDA, according the agency itself, is not construed by FDA as an admission that the dietary supplement was involved, caused or contributed to the adverse event being reported, or that any person included in the report caused or contributed to the event.”

Another energy drink has been under fire recently after a 14-year-old girl’s parents filed a wrongful death suit against Monster Beverage Corp. when their daughter died after drinking two, 24-ounce Monster Beverage Corp. drinks.

NBC News reported the autopsy concluded the young girl died from “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity” complicating an inherited heart disorder she had.

It hasn’t been stated whether or not the girl knew of her heart disorder or that consuming the energy drinks would cause her harm.

Lauren Nielsen, a senior from Grass Valley, Calif., sees the danger in substances like this being so readily available to anyone with money to buy them.

“Obviously every little thing cannot be regulated, but age restrictions can be put in place,” Nielsen said. “If a product has the ability to hurt or kill someone, then some sort of safety precaution needs to be considered. It won’t prevent everyone from misusing it but it will prevent those that are maybe too young to know better. How many more deaths and incidents have to happen?”

 

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