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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dying For 5-Hour Energy? Money for the Avon Foundation for Women Breast Cancer Crusade

 
 
 
"Finding the energy for work and family responsibilities is hard enough.  
Throw in a second job, go back to school, or simply have a sleepless night,
and you’re bound to hit the wall. So what do you do? Run for the coffee?
Grab a soda? But how long does that last before you need more?  
 
Instead – take something that's quick, simple,
and made to help hard working people.
Grab a little bottle and gulp down...
 
Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Niacin, Folic Acid,
Citicoline, Tyrosine, Phenylalanine, Taurine,
Malic Acid, Glucuronolactone, Phenylketonuris, and lots of Caffeine."
 
--Information taken from the 5-Hour Energy Website

When I saw the latest news that the makers of 5-Hour Energy had entered into an agreement with the Avon Foundation for Women Breast Cancer Crusade, I scratched my head in wonder. To me, these two were rather strange bedfellows from a health/safety point of view. I guess I have always been wary of products advertised like snake oil. Let me explain.

Here's the press release from 5-Hour Energy:

"5-hour ENERGY® is joining the battle against breast cancer with the upcoming introduction of a Pink Lemonade flavor. Starting October 1, 2012, and running through December 31, 2012, a portion of each sale of new Pink Lemonade 5-hour ENERGY® will be donated to the Avon Foundation for Women Breast Cancer Crusade.

“'Breast cancer can be defeated if we all do our part,' said Living Essentials, LLC, President Scott Henderson, 'By joining with the Avon Foundation for Women Breast Cancer Crusade we have been granted the privilege of helping the cause financially and through increased awareness.'

"Living Essentials, LLC, the distributor of 5-hour ENERGY®, has committed a donation of five cents per bottle of Pink Lemonade 5-hour ENERGY® sold, with a minimum donation of $75,000."

To me, why wouldn't people simply drink a cup of coffee or a bottle of Mountain Dew to get a caffeine kick when they need to be a little more alert? Because they need a mountain of sustained energy is surely the answer. Five more hours of it, no less. I wondered just how much stimulant was in that little plastic bottle and what kind of "friendly buzz" the liquid produced.

As for the special blend of vitamins, amino acids, and enzymes, does the phrase "snake oil salesman" mean anything to you? After all, the manufacturer states that "the key ingredients in 5-Hour Energy are also available in every day foods – like broccoli, avocados, bananas and apples – or already in you."

And, to my surprise, I found that 5-Hour Energy is advertised as a safe product with "as much caffeine as a cup (12 ounces) of the leading premium coffee." And, that is the Extra Strength version. After all, the name and claim for the product is five hours of energy. And, they boast consumers will have "no crash later" after consuming something that gives them five hours of energy. A cup of any "leading coffee" I know has never provided me with a five hour energy boost.

Just what the hell is in 5-Hour Energy that the company claims will make you "leave grogginess behind and sail through your day"? Contradictory information, at the least. The claims remind me of the old Little Feat song about cocaine titled "Sailin' Shoes." I'm not inferring that 5-Hour Energy contains cocaine, but it surely must give you something that puts on your "sailin' shoes."

"Lady in a turban, cocaine tree
Does a dance so rhythmically
She's cryin', and a singin'
and having a time
and gee that cocaine tree look fine
"You've got to put on your sailin' shoes
Put on your sailing shoes
Everyone will start to cheer
When you put on your sailin' shoes."
 
 

5-Hour News

Then, today, I read an article that stated the following:

"Federal officials have received reports of 13 deaths
over the last four years that cited the possible involvement
of 5-Hour Energy, a highly caffeinated energy shot,
according to Food and Drug Administration records
and an interview with an agency official."

 (Barry Meier, "Caffeinated Drink Cited in Reports of 13 Deaths,"
The New York Times, November 14 2012)

I also discovered that this is the second time in recent weeks that F.D.A. filings citing energy drinks and deaths have emerged. Last month, the agency acknowledged it had received five fatality filings mentioning another popular energy drink, Monster Energy.
       
Since 2009, 5-Hour Energy has been mentioned in some 90 filings with the F.D.A., including more than 30 that involved serious or life-threatening injuries like heart attacks, convulsions and, in one case, a spontaneous abortion, a summary of F.D.A. records reviewed by The New York Times showed.
      
Now, let's don't jump to conclusions.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. Is this concern something to do about nothing?
 
Caffeine won't really hurt you, will it?
 
Well, it is safe for the average person to consume about 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, but over-consumption could cause heart problems, according to health experts. And just how may 5-Hour Energy lead to over-consumption?
 
5-Hour Energy doesn't say how much caffeine is contained in one bottle. Tod Cooperman of ConsumerLab.com conducted a chemical analysis of 5-hour Energy and other energy drinks and found 5-Hour Energy contains 207 milligrams of caffeine, far more than a typical cup of coffee's 80-100 milligrams. "It's a stimulant," he said of 5-Hour Energy.
 
"The New York's attorney general has recently started to investigate whether the multibillion-dollar energy-drink industry is deceiving consumers with misstatements about the ingredients and health value of its products. Furthermore, some scientists and health experts say energy drinks deliver all their kick from caffeine, and that other ingredients, while not appearing to be dangerous, are simply a marketing gimmick." (Reed Albergotti and Mike Esterl, "New York Probes Energy-Drink Makers," The Wall Street Journal, August 28 2012)
 
So, the vitamins in 5-Hour Energy are safe, right?
5-Hour Energy contains particularly high doses of vitamins B6 and B12. Most experts say large doses of vitamins do not contribute to a feeling of vigor and that the body uses the vitamins it needs and simply excretes the rest. However, some studies have associated negative health effects with B-vitamin megadoses in some patients. Check out this information:
 

Megadoses of B vitamins

Japanese researchers found in
2010 that a diet rich in B vitamins
could cut the risk of heart disease
and stroke, but a handful of other
studies have associated adverse
health effects with B-vitamin
megadoses. Swedish researchers
found that 40-milligram doses of
B6 combined with 800 micrograms
of folic acid increased the risk of a
second heart attack. And
Canadian researchers, hoping to
stem kidney disease in diabetics,
ultimately associated 25 mg doses
of B6 with higher risk of kidney
damage, heart attack and stroke.
Air Force researchers said studies
of B vitamins and other energy
drink additives, plus military
members’ mega-dependence on
these products, motivated their research.
(Patricia Kime, "Boost on the Ground: Troops Love 5-Hour Energy,
But Experts Raise Health Concerns, ArmyTimes, June 1 2012)
 
 
 

 
Is It All About Money?
 
Reporters Reed and Esterly say that energy drinks are among the fastest-growing products in the beverage sector. U.S. retail sales of the drinks rose 16% last year to $8.9 billion, accounting for 12% of the carbonated-soft-drink category, according to Beverage Digest, a trade publication and data service. Monster leads in the U.S. by volume, ahead of Austria's Red Bull and Rockstar Inc.
 
The quest for instant energy is particularly intense in the military, where these small shots of caffeine, vitamins and organic and amino acids have proved a particularly popular middle-of-an-op pick-me-up. An estimated 85 percent of service members report using them, according to a study by the Rand Corporation think tank.
 
Would you believe these energy drinks
are regulated more loosely than sodas such as cola?
 
Yet, in 2009, the Food and Drug Administration said it was "concerned" certain ingredients such as botanical extracts were being added to beverages and foods beyond their traditional use, which it said raised questions about safety. The federal agency says the term "energy drink" isn't defined by any FDA regulation, describing it as an ill-defined marketing term with widely varying ingredients.
 
Still, the parent company of 5-Hour Energy, Living Essentials Inc., says 5-Hour Energy has an “exemplary safety profile” with the FDA.
 
“As a dietary supplement that is strictly regulated by
the FDA, 5-Hour Energy is subject to adverse event
reporting requirements imposed by the FDA,” Living Essentials spokeswoman Elaine Lutz  said.
 
She added that Living Essentials has conducted its own research on its product, which has faced independent review and found that 5-Hour Energy “is an effective way to achieve a long-lasting feeling of energy without a sudden drop later.” (Patricia Kime, "Boost on the Ground: Troops Love 5-Hour Energy, But Experts Raise Health Concerns, ArmyTimes, June 1 2012) 
 
“Strictly regulated,” is a matter of perspective: Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Nutrition monitors after-market safety of supplements, while the Federal Trade Commission regulates their advertising. Dietary supplements such as 5-Hour Energy are not approved by the FDA.
 
Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring
that supplements are safe
before they reach the market,
but they don’t actually have to prove it.

Now, investigators are looking into whether the addition of ingredients like guarana—another source of caffeine—violates laws that ban putting multiple sources of caffeine in one beverage without disclosing the overall amount, according to the person familiar with the investigation. (Reed Albergotti and Mike Esterl, "New York Probes Energy-Drink Makers," The Wall Street Journal, August 28 2012)
 
The FDA works hand-in-hand with Big Business and Mega Money causing a lack of control and proper concern for safety. Have you ever heard this before? Do I have to spell it out? Just think about Purdue Pharma and the FDA handling OxyContin and Pharmageddon, the prescription drug epidemic.
 
I am totally at a loss to explain how such a reputable, health-conscious group like the Women's Breast Cancer Crusade became connected with Living Essentials' questionable product, 5-Hour Energy. Are there no regulations about how the pink ribbon is being used? Does it matter to the cancer organization as long as they get a substantial payday from Living Essentials?

I simply suspect money, BIG MONEY, speaks louder than safety these days. A $1.8 million 2006 Institute of Medicine report on pharmaceutical regulation in the U.S. found major deficiencies in the current FDA system for ensuring the safety of drugs on the American market.

I hope self-regulation is correct. I hope 5-Hour Energy is safe. Yet, I believe the product needs to be investigated much further. And, I see no reason for a great health organization to accept money from a company that sells something that smells like snake oil. I think I'll stick to coffee and leave the purchase of those pink bottles to someone less suspicious than I.  

 
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