Follow-Up: Supplement Q & A

Below are some follow-up questions from yesterday’s NJU.

1. Did you discuss 5-Hour Energy?  Why is it bad to have excessive amounts of vitamins? I thought they just pass through your body if you don’t need them, is that a myth?

Excess water-soluble vitamins do filter through the system—you are correct.  But there are also upper limits to consider.  In the case of 5-Hour Energy, there is 40mg of B6 in one bottle.  The Institute of Medicine (IOM) established an Upper Limit (UL) for B6 of 100mg per day for healthy adults.  As indicated by the IOM, when intake exceeds the UL there is a greater risk for adverse effects.

Adverse effects have been reported only with the supplemental form but never with food.  Adverse effects can range from flushing of the skin to liver and kidney damage.  Niacin is at 30mg (adverse effects have been reported with UL being at 50mg).  Daily doses of niacin above 50 mg have been shown to be associated with red skin, burning, tingling, itching and pain.

The “Energy Blend” of 1,870 mg is cryptic.  Although the bottle lists all ingredients, 5-Hour Energy is not required by law to state how many mg of each ingredient is in one bottle.  Therefore, we cannot assume that all of the ingredients in the bottle are safe to consume in the specified amount.

Lastly, a quick look on Consumerlab (an organization that lists all categories of supplements and runs tests for quality, safety and purity), tells a different story about 5-Hour Energy.  For a product to pass Consumerlab’s test, it must “clearly and accurately state the amount of minerals and vitamins (oil-and water-soluble) expected to be in the product.”  5-Hour energy was not approved in the amount of B-vitamins and caffeine listed on the bottle.

Why FDA hasn’t been allowed to pull this product off the shelves is unknown to me.

2. Apart from the unclean supplements you talked about, is there any difference in quality between different brands of vitamins/minerals/fish oils etc? i.e. would something from the grocery store be as good as anything else? I’ve heard that the store-bought version – while might be deemed ‘clean’ and safe, are not as effective as some of the more expensive brands?

There is a huge difference between brands.  Quality brands may not be the more expensive ones.  I reviewed how to determine quality by way of looking for a “seal of approval,” coming from NSF International or USP.  Also, if the product chose not to have those seals, it does not mean they weren’t tested and approved by those organizations.  To check to see if your product was approved, there are a few ways:

1.       Look for the seals:

2.       If the product doesn’t have the seal, go online to check if the product was approved:

a.       NSF: visit the main site or NSF for Sport

b.      USP: visit the search on the site

3.       I have a membership at and can look it up for you 🙂

Quality of fish oil is especially important (shark oils or any of the larger fish oils we bottle up may contain mercury so we need to look for smaller fish oils coming from sardines).  Personally, I have tried the Nordic Naturals omega-3 in lemon flavor (on the NSF list) and think it is delicious!


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