5-hour Energy makers petition Tenn. judge to keep shot’s ingredients secret

The makers of 5-hour Energy have asked a Tennessee judge to block regulators’ efforts to find out exactly what’s in those little vitality shots.

The Tennessean, our sister paper in Nashville, reports that Living Essentials and Innovation Ventures – the makers of 5-hour Energy – are seeking to halt a request by the state’s Commerce and Insurance Department and Attorney General’s Office to provide the exact ingredients in 5-hour Energy. The request is part of a 33-state investigation into alleged misleading advertising claims by the manufacturer.

Meanwhile, federal regulators also want the same info for an ongoing investigation into 13 deaths among 5-hour Energy users since 2009.

The reports of the deaths, along with 33 hospitalizations, of those who drank the product doesn’t mean the shot caused any medical conditions or contributed to them. But they raised enough questions that the FDA is following up.

Supplement makers aren’t required to disclose information about caffeine content or levels of additives such as amino acids or vitamins, and they are extremely protective of the exact makeup of their “proprietary blends,” not wanting to give away company secrets.

5-hour Energy is the most successful commercial energy shot and it is immensely popular with troops. Sales in 2011 of 5-hour Energy topped $9.2 million across the military exchanges — almost 1 percent of 5-hour Energy’s $1 billion in total sales. And that doesn’t include what troops buy in commissaries or off base.

A Consumer Reports study released last December found that 5-hour Energy Extra Strength has the highest caffeine level of any of its competitors, containing 242 mg of caffeine – the equivalent of seven 12-ounce cans of soda.

Regular 5-hour Energy ranks fifth on Consumer Reports’ list of 27 drinks tested, with 125 milligrams of caffeine.

Energy shots are the only food supplement classified as “high risk” by the Defense Department’s Human Performance Resource Center.

The HPRC says it places energy shots in the category because insufficient data exists to determine a recommendation on any health benefits related to consumption.

Patricia Kime is a health reporter for Military Times. You can reach her at pkime@militarytimes.com.