Writers, college students and researchers regularly go to coffee for a caffeine fix to give them an extra edge. But in recent years, new high-caffeine energy drinks are stealing the show. Well, it may be time to rethink that option, as a popular energy drink has been mentioned in reports of several deaths.
In a report filed by the New York Times, 5-Hour Energy, an energy drink that is very common in U.S. convenience stores, has been mentioned as a possible factor in the deaths of 13 people, based on federal Food and Drug Administration records and an interview with one of the agency's staff. According to the FDA, reports of deaths possibly linked to the drink were filed over the last four years. Some of the complications mentioned in the FDA reports include heart attacks and convulsions.
Despite the troubling details, the New York Times report stresses, "The filing of an incident report with the F.D.A. does not mean that a product was responsible for a death or an injury or contributed in any way to it. Such reports can be fragmentary in nature and difficult to investigate." Unlike some other well-known energy drinks, 5-Hour Energy is marketed as a dietary supplement, which has led some to think of the sugarless drink as healthier than other, sugar and caffeine-packed alternatives. On its website the drink is listed as containing vitamin B12, B6, Niacin (vitamin B3), and folic acid (vitamin B9), as well as caffeine and other ingredients.
Although the company behind 5-Hour Energy would not sit for an interview with the paper, it did release a statement saying that 5-Hour Energy "is not an energy drink, nor marketed as a beverage," and claimed that the product contained "about as much caffeine as a cup of the leading premium coffee." More importantly, the statement said that the company was "unaware of any deaths proven to have been caused by the consumption of 5-Hour Energy."
That last statement is key, because while the New York Times may have a wealth of data indicating problems some consumers may have reported, they still don't have proof that drinking the product is necessarily any worse for your health than an extreme addiction to coffee. Nevertheless, these reports could lead some to think twice before downing "any" product promising to deliver a super shot of caffeine while you're trying to finish cramming for the important test, or looking for a wake up jolt at work.