Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How safe is 5 hour energy?!

You can't watch anything on TV right now without seeing a commercial for 5-Hour energy. The groggy people, waking up with no time to spare, dishevled and longing to hit the snooze button. After a quick shot of 5 hour energy they're good as new ready to go!
My boss recently asked me what I knew about the product and if it was safe to drink or not. I didn't know -- so I found out!

5-hour energy promises a boost of energy that lasts for hours without the "crash" associated with other energy drinks. Its main ingredients are B Vitamins and an "energy blend" consisting of citicoline, tyrosine, phenylalanine, taurine, malic acid, glucuronolactone and caffeine.
Here's a quick run down of what that stuff is and what it does:

Citicoline seems to increase a brain chemical called phosphatidylcholine. This brain chemical is important for brain function. Citicoline might also decrease brain tissue damage when the brain is injured.

Tyrosine is used by the body to make chemical messengers that are involved in conditions involving the brain such as mental alertness.

Phenylalanine is used by the body to make chemical messengers.

Taurine is used to improve mental performance.

Malic Acid optimizes cellular energy production, protecting muscles from fatigue, promoting the proper function of nerves, muscles, and the heart.

Glucuronolactone improves mental performance, reaction time, concentration and memory.

Caffeine effects the body's metabolism, including stimulating the central nervous system, making you more alert and giving you a boost of energy.

The B Vitamins in 5-Hour energy are:

Niacin (Vitamin B3), containing 150% of your RDA (reccommnended daily allowance)
Niacin works with thiamin to promote healthy blood circulation and produce hydrochloric acid. It also contributes to metabolism. Niacin's specific strengths are sex hormone synthesis, the lowering of cholesterol, and enhancing memory.

Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), containing 2000% of your RDA
Pyridoxine takes part in more activity than almost any vitamin or mineral, playing an important role in both your physical and mental well being. It helps with hydrochloric acid production, blood cell formation, antibody production, nerve and brain health. It also helps regulate sodium-potassium balance, aids in vitamin B12 absorption, and is needed for the synthesis of RNA & DNA. Pyridoxine works with folate and B12 to block homocysteine. High homocysteine levels in the body are associated with heart disease because this compound goes after the heart muscle and encourages cholesterol deposits are the heart.

Methylcobalamin (Vitamin B12) containing 8333% of your RDA
Methylcobalamin is really a set of compounds called cobalamins. They are like the hemoglobin found in red blood cells, but they contain cobalt as instead of iron. This nutrient may help with neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis because it helps regenerate damaged nerves, something almost unheard of in essential nutrients. It plays a roll in metabolism, blood cell formation, digestion, cell formation, and homocysteine conversion.

All these vitamins are crucial in our diet, and not having enough can be harmful. However, it's not been proven that having extra of any of these vitamins will help you or increase your energy. Excess is what most people are probably worrying about after reading those numbers. While it's unlikely to be dangerous, excess Niacin (B3) can produce uncomfortable reddening/flushing sensation of the skin. Also, consuming 200mg or more of Pyridoxine (B6) could potentially impair the normal functioning of your nerves and muscles (you would need to cosume 5 bottles of 5 hour energy in one day to be in danger of that)
As far as the "crash" the 5-Hour Energy promises you'll avoid, it is assumed that they are referring to the fact that their product contains no sugar, which can cause a "crash" sensation when blood sugar levels go up and then down after consuming a large amount of sugar. So compared to their sugary competition like Rockstar or Monster, they can promise no crash. Is this actually true? Never actually been tested so we don't really know.

So, bottomline: Is 5-Hour Energy safe to drink?
Basically it's just a glorified caffeine fix, and will do you no more harm than a cup of coffee will. Caffeine does have side effects such as jitteriness, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and insomnia. So if you're sensitive to caffeine it's probably not a good idea.
If you do reach for the little bottle - best advice is to never drink more than two bottles and don't mix it with other forms of caffeine.