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Dietitian Q/A

Because of the contents of some questions and the large number we receive, the MUSC Dietitians only answer selected questions. Although we discourage questions regarding personal health problems, scheduling an appointment with the outpatient dietitian to address these concerns is encouraged. Appointments can be made after a physician referral is received.

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 Question:  Our Health Class was looking up information about different "energy drinks." One had VERY high amounts of vitamin B12 and B6-both over 3000% of your daily requirements. Can you explain what this would do to your body or why they put so much of these B vitamins in their drink? Thank you, Karen Beck, Health and Physical Education Teacher


Energy drinks are marketed to "boost energy". People who are deficient in vitamin B-12 and/or vitamin B-6 can often be very fatigued and tired. However, few people are actually deficient in those vitamins.

People who are most likely to be deficient in vitamin B-12 are either vegan or over the age of 50 (we lose our ability to absorb it as we age). Good natural sources of vitamin B-12 are meat, poultry, fish, shellfish (especially clams and oysters), and eggs (especially the yolk). As for the high concentration of the vitamin B-12, there is no current research that suggests that it can be toxic to the body in large quantities. It is a water soluble vitamin and any extra that the body does not need, is simply flushed out in our urine.

People who are most likely to be deficient in vitamin B-6 are elderly with poor intakes, people who consume excessive amounts of alcohol, people with kidney failure on dialysis and people on certain medications that interfere with the absorption. Good natural sources of vitamin B-6 are meats, whole grain products, vegetables, some fruits, and nuts. Fortified cereals also are good sources of vitamin B-6.  Unlike vitamin B-12, you can get too much vitamin B-6. Symptoms of excessive vitamin B-6 intake are unsteady gait,  nerve damage, numbness or tingling of hands and feet, depression, headaches, irritability and fatigue. It is not generally recommended to exceed 30-60mg/day for children, 80mg/day for teens, and 100mg/day for adults.

For the most part, the actual energy "boost" that people usually get from energy drinks is due to the excessive amount of caffeine and sometimes other stimulants that are in energy drinks. These high levels of caffeine and other stimulants can actually be dangerous and there have been cases of people dying from drinking energy drinks. Because of the high caffeine content of energy drinks, it is strongly recommended that children and teens do not drink them.

Answered: 02/23/2011

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