New Parents – Stick To Coffee. These Energy Drinks Are Seriously Killing People

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I’ve never personally been tempted by one of those weird vials of liquid energy at the convenience store counter, but if you have – there is something you should know. The stuff is killing people. So no matter how sleep-deprived you are – you should probably skip it.

I’m talking specifically about “5-Hour Energy,” a highly-caffeinated energy shot. From the New York Times:

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, aspontaneous abortion, a summary of F.D.A. records reviewed by The New York Times showed.

Convulsions, heart attacks, and spontaneous abortion? I’ll take my regular coffee jitters any day, thanks. The company does not disclose the amount of caffeine in each bottle, but Consumer Reports placed the level at about 215 milligrams. An eight-ounce cup of coffee can contain from 100 to 150 milligrams of caffeine. Okay, so that’s about the amount of caffeine in two cups of coffee. Why so dangerous? What else is in this stuff? The label lists B Vitamins and something called Taurine – a common amino acid dietary supplement.

After I had my child, I began to drink coffee again. I was told not to overdo it because I was breastfeeding, so I had about two cups a day. When he finally weaned I began drinking coffee with a vengenance. Apart from building up a little tolerance, and needing more to get me through the day – I didn’t experience any crazy adverse effects. When I had to give it up again with my second pregnancy, I had a few headaches. No big deal. Which is why I am very freaked out about the adverse effects of these “energy” drinks.

The F.D.A. has stated that it does not have sufficient scientific evidence to justify changing how it regulates caffeine or other ingredients in energy products. The issue of how to do so is complicated by the fact that some high-caffeine drinks, like Red Bull, are sold under agency rules governing beverages, while others, like 5-Hour Energy and Monster Energy, are marketed as dietary supplements. The categories have differing ingredient rules and reporting requirements.

Currently, the agency does not publicly disclose adverse event filings about dietary supplements like 5-Hour Energy. Companies that market energy drinks as beverages are not required to make such reports to the agency, although they can do so voluntarily.

The agency does not “publicly disclose adverse event filings.” Okay. I think while they keep what is making these energy drinks so dangerous such a big secret – I’ll stick to jacking myself up the old-fashioned way – with a giant cup of coffee. I think you should probably do the same.

(photo: K. Faraktinov/