Study Substantiates Cognitive Effects of 5-Hour Energy

The country’s leading energy shot markets a caffeinated boost of five hours, but they could make it six.

At least, that’s what the results from a recent study indicate about 5-hour Energy. The cross-over study was randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled and assessed 94 healthy volunteers during a series of tests that analyzed attention, mood and memory. It was conducted by Medicus Research at its clinic in Northridge, Calif. and sponsored by Emord & Associates, a law firm that practices food, drug and cosmetic law, among other areas.

While the conductors of the study didn’t overtly recommend 5-hour Energy, which holds nearly 91 percent of the market share for energy shots, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, the results indicate that the beverage does indeed sharpen cognitive functions for a six-hour period of time.

“There appeared to be statistically significant benefits of ingestion of this product compared to the placebo,” said Dr. Jay Udani, the CEO and medical director of Medicus Research, a contract research organization headquartered in Agoura Hills, Calif., that studies products to substantiate or debunk claims in the marketplace.

The volunteers were requested to sleep between three and six hours the night before each testing day, in order to replicate the sleep-deprived state of the product’s main consumer base. The volunteers participated in a series of computerized cognitive tests, such as immediate word recall, delayed word recall, picture recognition, spatial working memory and numeric working memory. They also participated in a series of questionnaires, such as The Bond-Lader Visual Analogue Scales of Mood and Alertness (VAS), which tests self-rated alertness, calmness and contentment.

Udani pointed out that the combination of variables, setting and tests led to a credible study for a product of this kind. Imagine sleeping three to four hours, entering a clinic and participating in a six-hour long series of computerized tests and questionnaires. You’re allowed to hang out in the clinic, but you can’t exercise, you can consume only the carbohydrate-free food and beverages provided by the study’s conductors and you can’t fall asleep. No wonder the placebo takers crashed.

Meanwhile, the actual product most significantly affected the power of attention, which reflects the ability to focus attention, process information and ignore distraction, and the continuity of attention, which reflects the ability to sustain attention. While the power of attention, perhaps expectedly, spiked the most during the first hour of testing, the continuity of attention peaked during the sixth hour.

“It is possible that the difference between active and placebo may have even continued further than six hours, but we kept it there,” Udani said.

The results of the Bond-Lader VAS questionnaire indicate that, compared to the placebo, the alertness and contentment of the volunteers increased during the first four hours. Alertness levels displayed the biggest spike during the first two hours of testing. Meanwhile, the calmness of the volunteers declined during the testing, however, the effects were minimal.

The conductors of the study also tested blood glucose levels of the volunteers and noted that there were no significant differences between those who ingested 5-hour Energy and those who took the placebo.

While Udani concluded that users of the product don’t experience a significant alteration in blood sugar, he couldn’t comment on a key factor of 5-hour Energy’s slogan: “no crash later.” This is because the study lasted for six hours and, as mentioned, the energy levels remained intact. For the study to monitor a crash, it would have likely needed to continue for an additional few hours.

“You’d want to see it go all the way back to its baseline to be able to fully talk about these lengths of time during which this has an effect,” Udani said.

Udani also said that he doesn’t recommend any beverage on a global basis, because each patient’s case is unique.

Therefore, Living Essentials, the company that markets 5-hour Energy, may still not have a response for Ellen Rosenblum, the Attorney General of the Oregon Department of Justice, who said at the end of December that she wants the company to prove that doctors recommend it and that users don’t experience a post-caffeine crash.

Regardless, Udani said that the study could serve as an important tool for consumers in search of comprehensible benefits from caffeinated products. The study could also remain pertinent for a significant portion of the country that can’t seem to overcome its lassitude. About 30 to 40 percent of adults say they experience symptoms of insomnia in a given year and about 10 to 15 percent of adults say they have chronic insomnia, according to the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health.