At Health and Life, we occasionally relax and engage in corporate team building by watching television. Over the past months we have seen a fair amount of advertising for a product called 5-Hour Energy.
The commercials promise hours of energy now without a crash later. We decided to investigate these claims further and present our analysis to promote discussion and are open to comments and input.
Here’s what we found: 5-Hour Energy likely acts as a stimulant to some degree.
But our research could not find definitive evidence that any of the ingredients in it helps with energy beyond the caffeine.
To see why we say that, scroll down to the Ingredients section, where we look at each ingredient and its potential role in energy boosting.
The very first thing we did was schedule interviews with two people who drink 5-Hour Energy. We wanted to hear what they thought and what their experiences were. Both said that they felt it provided significant benefit and both said they felt it did not cause a crash as other energy drinks might.
The first person, Adam, is a pre-medical student taking extremely challenging courses like physics and advanced biochemistry. After pulling an all-nighter shadowing doctors in the ER, he needed something to wake him up and bought a 5-Hour Energy based off commercials.
5-Hour Energy returned him to his baseline energy without jitters and had no crash. He has had it occasionally since then. Although Adam feels that the drink works and meets its advertised claims, he said he does not drink it often, preferring coffee and tea.
The second person, Ethan, is a mathematics student. His classes are so challenging that, in one of them, students have made a habit of taking pictures of other students who had fallen asleep – and almost everyone has done so. In addition to his challenging courses, Ethan is a sponsored snowboarder.
He recalled that he had gone 24 hours without sleeping and was going to go another 25 and needed something to wake him up and decided to try 5-Hour Energy. For Ethan, coffee doesn’t do much – he could drink a cup of strong coffee and fall asleep soon after.
For Ethan, 5-Hour Energy wakes him up and works. He does not think there is a crash, but pointed out that, when he drinks it, he is so tired that he can’t really notice if there is a crash.
These two interviews indicate that 5-Hour Energy is likely to provide energy, does not seem to provide a crash, and is overall effective. Adam expressed some concern about the high level of vitamin b12 in the drink which provided an excellent starting point for our research.
The next step was to analyze the drink from a biological perspective to see if, from the research we looked at, it was likely that the advertised benefits would take place. We obtained a sample of 5-Hour Energy Extra Strength and this is what we found.
Vitamin B12: 5-Hour Energy has 8333% the recommended daily value of vitamin b12, or 83 times the amount you are supposed to consume. This vitamin is involved in the synthesis and repair of damaged cells.
We did not find evidence that vitamin b12 increases energy and some studies we looked at argued that it does not have a benefit in increasing exercise capacity for people who are not deficient in it.
It is possible that vitamin b12 is highly regulated by the body. The research we looked at said that it passes through the body and reaches a dedicated portal entry point.
This may mean that very little vitamin b12 that enters your body has a physiological effect. It is unclear if this regulation is because it is rare in nature or because it might have negative effects. We also read that there is no evidence of long term harm from vitamin b12 supplementation.
Vitamin B6: We noticed that the product had 2000% the recommended daily value of vitamin b6. This vitamin is involved in energy production in the body. We found little evidence of benefits from consumption of vitamin b6 for energy or cognition in people who are not deficient.
Some evidence we found indicated that vitamin b6 deficiency is not that uncommon – one put the number for some form of deficiency as high as 40-60% in athletes, while another put the number at 17-35%.
Other evidence did not indicate that vitamin b6 deficiency is that common. We did notice that deficiency in vitamin b6 is more common in women athletes.
We read an article which said that consumption of vitamin b6 above 200mg per day, or 5 bottles of 5 Hour Energy, can cause nerve toxicity.
Niacin: 5-Hour Energy contains 200% your daily allotment of niacin. Niacin is in general a healthy nutrient and works to improve your good cholesterol levels. From what we looked at, however, it may not have so much effect on energy.
The bottle warns that you may experience redness and flushing from the niacin, or a “niacin flush.” While this is theoretically true, the instances of niacin flush that we found were at much higher doses and given more frequently.
Energy blend: The energy blend in 5-Hour Energy includes taurine, glucuronolactone and caffeine, among others. Our research indicated that this combination of ingredients is highly likely to have positive stimulatory effects.
One study we looked at used just those three ingredients and showed positive results. There, people who drank those ingredients were more alert and clearheaded.
Additionally, rate of action on some tests was improved, while not necessarily improving the amount of answers answered correctly.
On the other hand, a prestigious journal argued that the amounts of taurine that are present in energy drinks in general is far below the level needed for a positive or negative effects. Additionally, the stimulatory effects shown might not be too dissimilar from those obtained from caffeine alone.
5-Hour Energy has an interesting variety of ingredients. While it is likely to provide energy boost, we question the utility of some of the ingredients. We believe that the claim of having no crash is likely to be true.
The data we looked at indicates that occasional use should not be an issue. The article we referenced earlier indicates that consumption of more than several in one day might be an issue, and the label says to not consume more than 2.
Again, this is based off our research into the matter and we are not doctors or toxicologists. We present this piece which consists of our opinions based on our research to promote discussion and scientific discourse and are open to comments and feedback.
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1) How common is vitamin B-12 deficiency?
2) An evaluation of a caffeinated taurine drink on mood, memory and information processing in healthy volunteers without caffeine abstinence
3) Safety issues associated with commercially available energy drinks Journal of the American Pharmacists Association
4) The mechanism and mitigation of niacin-induced flushing
5) Vitamin B6 for cognition
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