A sharp-eyed BuckMD reader read our original post on 5-Hour Energy and sent us the following note:
If 5-Hour Energy drinks are no more harmful than coffee, what are the risks of drinking less than a bottle daily during pregnancy? I have read your site and found nothing specific on risks/side effects during pregnancy. Are there any risks to the baby?
Good question. The short answer comes straight from the horse’s mouth. From the 5-Hour Energy website:
Who should not take 5-hour ENERGY®?
- Women who are pregnant or nursing.
- Children under 12 years of age.
- People diagnosed with phenylketonuria (PKU)
So even though (or more accurately, because) the 5-Hour Energy folks have never had to concern themselves with ensuring that any of the ingredients in their product are safe or actually do anything, they draw the line at selling it to people who are pregnant.
Like we said in our last post, despite 5-Hour Energy’s promotion of its B Vitamins and medical-yet-natural sounding “energy blend,” the only thing in it that has ever been proven to improve mental alertness is caffeine. So the question really is, “is caffeine safe in pregnancy?” And the answer to that question is… maybe.
Some studies have reported an association between caffeine intake and adverse pregnancy outcomes while others haven’t. These studies are inconsistent because it’s very difficult to control for all the factors that affect a pregnancy, not to mention accurately measure how much caffeine research participants really consumed. The best we can say is that women who are pregnant or trying to become so should probably limit caffeine consumption to less than 200 to 300 mg per day to reduce their risk of possible adverse reproductive effects
The problem is that because 5-Hour Energy is sold as a supplement and not a medication, the company is not required to disclose their products’ caffeine content. All it says on its website is that it “contains about as much caffeine as a cup of premium coffee.” So what does that mean? According to Energy Fiend, a 12oz Starbucks coffee has 260mg of caffeine while a 10oz Tim Horton’s coffee has 100mg. So sometimes a cup is more than a cup.
What about the excess of B Vitamins in 5-Hour Energy? Are they safe in pregnancy?
A can of 5-Hour Energy contains 30mg of B3 (Niacin), 40mg of B6 and 500mcg of B12. The recommended daily allowance of these vitamins in pregnancy is 18mg of B3, 1.9mg of B6 and 2.6mcg of B12, so one can of 5-Hour Energy gives you way more than you need, especially since you’re more than likely getting enough from your diet anyway. In general, B Vitamins aren’t dangerous in large amounts because they’re water soluble – once your body has enough, the extra is just excreted in your urine – so other than making your pee more expensive, 5-Hour Energy is unlikely to be dangerous. However, an excess of Vitamin B3 (Niacin) can produce an uncomfortable flushing sensation.
When in doubt, talk to your health care provider about anything you’re putting into your body when you’re pregnant or nursing. If you are a student at Ohio State and have questions about pregnancy planning or other issues related to your reproductive health, you can make an appointment with our women’s services department; they are always happy to help you.
John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University