How much caffeine is really in those energy drinks?

Energy shots and drinks are promoted to keep you alert and energized, attributing their effects to special formulas often “packed with B vitamins and nutrients to make it last,” as a commercial for 5-hour Energy proclaims. But could it just be a lot of caffeine?

“Certainly,” says ConsumerLab.com President, Tod Cooperman, M.D. “Many products don’t disclose how much caffeine they contain, but our tests show that a single small bottle of some of these drinks contains more caffeine than two full cups of coffee.” ConsumerLab.com purchased and tested three of the most popular energy drinks:

  • 5-hour Energy,
  • Monster Energy M-3 Concentrate; and
  • Red Bull.

The energy drinks were tested as part of a larger Product Review of B Vitamin Supplements and Energy Drinks. B vitamins are the largest segment of the U.S. dietary supplement industry after multivitamins and sports supplements, with sales of $1.46 billion in 2011, according to Nutrition Business Journal.

Out of 20 “B complexes” and single B vitamin supplements selected by ConsumerLab.com for testing, 5 failed to accurately list amounts of one or more vitamins, containing far less (31% to 87%) and/or far more (182% to 265%) of what was expected.

B complexes were more likely to fail testing than single B vitamin supplements. Two of the three energy drinks also failed to contain their listed amounts of folic acid, one of the B vitamins.

ConsumerLab.com cautioned that consumers should be mindful of potential side effects due to the large amounts of caffeine and vitamins attainable within the suggested daily serving sizes of energy drinks. “Just two bottles of 5-hour Energy or Monster M3 Concentrate puts you over the tolerable daily intake level for niacin, which can cause skin flushing and tingling, on top of the potential jitteriness of several hundred milligrams of caffeine,” says Dr. Cooperman.

The Product Review of B Vitamin Supplements and Energy Drinks is available online at ConsumerLab.com. Twenty-three of the products reviewed in the report were selected and purchased by ConsumerLab.com. Twelve additional products which passed ConsumerLab.com’s Voluntary Certification Program are included in the report, as well as information about two products similar to another which passed testing.

All products were purchased by ConsumerLab.com and tested in independent laboratories. Failures to meet label claims were confirmed in a second independent laboratory.

Enter your email to subscribe to Dr. Walt's blogs.

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Dr. Walt Larimore will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.