It must be pretty rough to be an energy drink maker these days. After nearly a decade of of gangbuster sales the products are coming under greater scrutiny by both the media and the government. The makers of 5 Hour Energy in particular have been on the defensive quite a bit lately after a number of news reports citing the drink in the deaths of upward of 13 people over four years.
Now a study has been released that shows it’s not any more effective than any other source of caffeine:
“A lot of people take the energy drinks because they think they have that extra boost over caffeine,” said study researcher Chelsea Benham, a student at Centre College in Danville, Ky. But the study shows “there’s really no difference,” Benham said.
In terms of boosting attention, a cup of coffee “would do you just as well,” if it had the same amount of caffeine as an energy drink, she said.
A 2-ounce bottle of 5-Hour Energy contains about 215 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent of about two cups of coffee.
I don’t make a point of watching commercials for this product, but they’re played so often it’s hard to miss them. For a long time they claimed that it gave you the energy boost of a soda or coffee “without the crash later”, but the ones I’ve been seeing lately have been touting how it’s sold a shitload drinks over the years, contains ingredients found in other foods you eat (implying it’s “natural” and thus safe), and is about the same as a cup of coffee. Whereas the old commercials implied that it was somehow way better than coffee the new commercial sums it up as “Like coffee with vitamins and nutrients.” It’s pretty clear the makers of 5 Hour Energy are a tad concerned that their golden egg may be in trouble.
Not that 5 Hour Energy is being singled out. A report released last November by the FDA cited a number of energy drinks as being a possible factor in various injuries and deaths including Monster Energy and Rockstar Energy.
For the time being the FDA doesn’t appear to be taking any action with regard to energy drinks and possible health issues related to them. The truth is that they’re just concentrated forms of caffeine and if you drink too much coffee or regular old caffeinated sodas you risk the same health issues. Overuse is most likely a factor in many of the injuries folks have suffered from these products. What this study shows, however, is that you don’t really gain anything from these products. The “alertness boost” is about the same as drinking coffee and there’s no evidence the added vitamins and nutrients help maintain energy levels or stave off the crash effect at all. Not to mention that the cost for these energy drinks is considerably higher than for regular sodas or coffee.