Is 5-Hour Energy Actually Better Than Coffee and Recommended by Doctors?
One judge says no, another judge says sort of
Back in 2009, few of us anticipated those plastic vials of inky liquid advertising five hours of unremitting vigor near gas stations' glass "tobacco" pipe displays would become a national phenomenon, going on to gross hundreds of millions of dollars. Living Essentials, LLC, has for years touted their line of 5-Hour Energy products, a witches' brew including caffeine, choline, glucuronolactone, tyrosine, taurine, and certain B vitamins as both more effective than a cup of coffee and approved by a bevy of respectable doctors. Anyone brave—or desperate—enough to guzzle down one of the shots might be inclined to agree with them, but much like a certain male person running for president, it turns out Living Essentials' promises might be a bit misleading and inaccurate.
5-Hour Energy's advertising campaign centered on their quick and cheap pick-me-up for afternoon doldrums, all night study sessions, and, we can only assume, burly big-rig drivers tearing across asphalt to meet their delivery deadlines for shipments of that very same product, because irony is sorely underappreciated nowadays. A couple years back, one of their 30-second ads even asserted the following:
We hate to break it to you, but that over-the-counter energy booster sitting right next to "performance enhancer" pills was probably bending the truth. Ars Technica reports that the verdicts of two nearly identical lawsuits filed by the attorney generals of Washington and Oregon recently came in, and the results don't look great for 5-Hour Energy. In Washington, King County Superior Court Judge Beth Andrus ruled that the data didn't back up Living Essentials' claims that their particular combination of ingredients worked in tandem better than other caffeinated products like coffee. What's more, she declared that there was no evidence at all that showed their "decaf" variations worked, period. Judge Andrus will apparently announce the penalty orders at a later date.
Ars Technica also added that, "On the actual survey given to doctors, the question was worded in a tricky way, Washington's Judge Andrus ruled… [and] written in such a way to suggest that a ‘no’ response meant that the doctor would instead recommend a high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium energy drink to those that partake in such beverages."
Vague language promoting a non-FDA approved product? Who would have guessed? As for Oregon, Circuit Court Judge Kelly Skye dismissed the state's claim, but argued this was because the advertising campaign's purported results were subjective, and its was language adequately vague about whether or not doctors would recommend the drink on a case-by-case basis.
Living Essentials issued a statement slamming Washington's Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, contending that he only brought those claims against the company "perhaps as a way to distract from his own troubles... [and he] should focus less on his political aspirations and more on the wellbeing of the people of Washington." Strong words from a company who clearly is acting in society's best interests with its line of chemical cocktails sold next to the Slim Jims, menthols, and ninja throwing stars.