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5-Hour Energy Linked To 13 Deaths, 30 Life-Threatening Incidents Since 2008: FDA Reports

11/14/2012 10:58 pm ET | Updated Nov 15, 2012

"What you don't know can't hurt you," goes the old saying. If those unknowns involve popular energy drinks, though, they could potentially be lethal.

According to records from the Food and Drug Administration, popular energy boosters like Monster and 5-Hour Energy have been involved in several serious illnesses in the past decade, including more than a few deaths.

Documents recently obtained by the New York Times link 5-Hour Energy, a ubiquitous two-ounce energy drink, to the deaths of 13 people over the past four years.

In addition to the deaths, the FDA filings on 5-Hour Energy mention 30 other life-threatening incidents, including heart attacks, convulsions, and at least one "spontaneous abortion," reports the New York Times.

While 5-Hour Energy doesn't disclose the precise amount of caffeine each "energy shot" contains, the company has stated each shot has "about as much" as a cup of premium coffee.

Is that enough to kill someone? Unlikely. Based on isolated deaths attributed directly to too much caffeine, the average human would have to consume between 5 to 10 grams of the stuff. In human terms, Popular Science points out that's the equivalent of drinking 6 to 12 gallons of McDonald's coffee.

But caffeine may not be the lone culprit. For people with underlying health conditions, particularly children and young adults, loads of caffeine can play a critical role in making a bad situation worse.

In an emailed statement to The Huffington Post, 5-Hour Energy added:

It is important to note that submitting a serious adverse event report to the FDA, according to the agency itself, is not construed by the FDA as an admission that the dietary supplement was involved, caused or contributed to the adverse event being reported, or that any person included in the report caused or contributed to the event.

In December 2011, 14-year-old Anais Fournier drank two 24-ounce cans of Monster Energy in one 24-hour period. The caffeine contained in the beverages exacerbated an underlying heart condition, and after spending 6 days in a coma, she was pronounced brain dead.

That traumatic experience drove Fournier's mother to file suit against the company, and also file a Freedom of Information Request with the FDA. The inquiry revealed 5 other people have also reported deaths in connection with Monster Energy drink since 2004.

According to an article in Pediatrics close to half the 5,448 reported caffeine overdoses in 2007 were in people under the age of 19.

Note: This piece has been updated with a response from 5-Hour Energy. Language has also been altered to emphasize that 5-Hour Energy is not directly responsible for any of the deaths reported to the FDA.

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