Caffeine Side Effects

Did 5 Hour Energy Kill 13 People?

5-hour-energy5 Hour Energy Shot is in the hot seat after reports of the FDA’s investigation of 13 deaths over four years that are linked to the popular energy shot.

The wife of one of the victims has even filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company because her husband died of a heart attack in 2009 after consuming the product daily for about a month prior.

This comes on the heels of a similar investigation concerning Monster Energy Drink and the death of Anais Fournier.

The FDA’s Center for Food Safety Adverse Event Reporting System (CAERS) collects data on adverse reactions to various products. Between the years of 2005 to 2012, there have been 92 reports of adverse reactions from people consuming 5 Hour.

But they do say this about their reporting:

In some reports, information in the reports cannot be verified for accuracy. Furthermore, in many reports, individuals may have used other products, and many products contain multiple ingredients which further complicates the evaluation of adverse event reports. There is no certainty that a reported adverse event can be attributed to a particular product or ingredient.

What’s in 5 Hour Energy Shot?

The shot is basically a concentrated, artificially flavored energy drink consisting of a blend of caffeine, amino acids, B vitamins, and sucralose for sweetness.

The Label Lists:

Purified Water, Glycerin, Glucuronolactone, N-Acetyl, L-Tyrosine, L-Phenylalanine, Taurine, Malic Acid, Caffeine, Natural Flavors, Ascorbic Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Niacin, Sucralose, Cyanocobalamin, Folic Acid

The exact amounts of some of these ingredients are hidden in their “Proprietary Blend”, but we found out from the company that the regular shot has around 200mg of caffeine and their Extra-Strength shot has around 250mg. Consumer Reports tested their extra strength shot and found it had 242mg of caffeine and that their standard shot contained 215mg. 

Let’s Keep This in Perspective

While I believe any death is horrible, all products come with risk. Anytime, we consumers, put something into our mouths, we are assuming some degree of risk based on our own body’s unique chemistry and our good or bad judgment.

  • 5-hour-energy-labelAccording to HuffPost 150-200 deaths a year occur from peanuts.
  • Drinking too much water kills at least one person a year in the USA.
  • 3.1 million deaths each year are blamed on excess sugar.

Should the millions of Americans that have heart attacks each year sue the fast food companies for clogging their arteries with their fat-filled burgers and french fries? Consumers have to burden at least some part of the responsibility when it comes to the risks involved with eating or drinking things that are questionable.

5 Hour Energy does contain a warning label and such labels are on certain products for a reason.

I imagine most of the victims had some type of underlying health condition that made them more susceptible to problems from products like 5 Hour, but it is up to all of us to make good choices based on what’s best for our unique health profile.

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Unfortunately, we live in such a lawsuit driven society, where it seems everyone else is to blame for our own misfortune. I don’t think 5 Hour Energy is at fault, although, they should disclose exactly what’s in their product and not hide behind the term “proprietary blend”.

However, since none of the ingredients in 5 Hour would be shown to cause harm at even the secret levels contained in the product, it will be hard to prove that this company is liable for the deaths especially if the warning label wasn’t followed.

What do you think? Is 5 Hour Energy to blame for the deaths of 13 people?