There’s vitamins in my drink?

Was listening to the latest podcast from the “Skeptics Guide to the Universe” where they were discussing the recent study associating excessive vitamin B consumption with increased chance of lung cancer. After chatting about about how people taking vitamin supplements can easily overdose, they commented how highly fortified Monster energy drinks were.

Wait a sec – I drink Monster energy drinks. There’s vitamin B in them? Who knew? (Clue : not me).

A quick search for “Monster Ultra White Energy Drink” found typical values per 500ml can were:

  • Niacin (Vitamin B3) – 43mg (266% daily reference intake)
  • Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) – 21mg (350%)
  • Vitamin B6 – 4mg (286%)
  • Vitamin B12 – 13μg (500%)

In contrast, the (large) 75g portion of vitamin-fortified cornflakes that I have every morning contains ‘just’:

  • Niacin (Vitamin B3) – 12mg (75%)
  • Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) – 4.5mg (75%)
  • Vitamin B6 – 1mg (75%)
  • Vitamin B12 – 2μg (75%)

And once you’ve added in all the other sources of these vitamins I eat each day, there’s little chance of me being deficient in any of them (which is nice).

Of course, the down-side is that too much of something can be just as bad as too little.

I did manage to find one table that gave some rough numbers for overdosing – at, coincidentally.

  Vitamin B3 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12
Over dosage Level or Tolerable Limit 10 mg to 35 mg 30 mg to 100 mg Above 10,000 μg

Other sources give other numbers.

Niacin (B3)

One can alone seems to be enough to exceed the tolerable level.

High doses (50 mg or more) of niacin can cause side effects. The most common side effect is called ‘niacin flush,’ which is a burning, tingling sensation in the face and chest, and red or flushed skin.“UMM. 

Serious risk of damage, though, requires vastly more than I would encounter – in the region of 2,000mg, for example. That’s 50 cans of Monster a day. Death by hyperhydration would be more of a concern.

Pantothenic Acid (B5)

This would seem to be a pointless additive as vitamin B5 is obtained from a wide variety of food sources.

A high dose – over 10g (or 10,000mg) – may cause diarrhoea, fluid retention and swelling in the tissues, and calcification in the arteries and blood vessels. 150kg of cornflakes or 250 litres of Monster would contain such a high dose of pantothenic acid.

Vitamin B6

300mg would be dangerously excessive and lead to nerve toxicity.

Vitamin B12

Regarded as safe, even in very high doses. – Stichting Tekort (NL)

Interestingly, a significant number of people over 50 years old don’t absorb Vitamin B12 as efficiently as younger people so a can a day may keep the doctor away.

So, if I stick to my one can a day, I should be OK. Or maybe I could change to something else…

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