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America is in an energy crisis. Between coffee, soda, and caffeinated foods, if it provides a jolt of energy to this sleep-deprived nation, Americans will consume it. Once a mainstay of college kids trying to power through their finals week, energy drinks are now popular among all groups of people.

5-Hour Energy is a name-brand energy drink that’s gained a national following in recent years. Its small 2-ounce bottle size makes it an attractive alternative to some drinks that weigh in at more than 16 ounces.

Some energy beverages on the market contain more than 20 grams of sugar. For a person trying to control their blood sugar, these drinks are off-limits.

The 5-Hour Energy shot drinks are sugar-free and contain only 4 calories. For individuals watching their sugar intake or calorie consumption, this may seem ideal. People with diabetes may be interested in this energy drink for that reason.

The problem with artificial sweeteners

For decades, “sugar-free” items were promoted to people with metabolic syndrome and either prediabetes or diabetes. This is because they don’t affect blood sugar the way traditional sugar sources do.

When a person who doesn’t have diabetes eats something with simple sugars, blood sugar levels increase and then level off slowly and evenly within two hours. When a person with diabetes eats something with simple sugars, on the other hand, their blood sugar level increases and doesn’t decrease as it should. Instead, it remains elevated. Learn more about the relationship between eating and blood sugar.

It was thought that sugar-free items didn’t have the same effect on blood sugar because they contain artificial sweeteners. Recent research, however, calls that assumption into question.

A 2014 study published in Nature found that artificial sweeteners might actually increase blood sugar problems. The artificial sweeteners may alter a person’s gut bacteria over time. The bacteria induce glucose intolerance in both people with and without diabetes.

This research, though limited, suggests that sugar-free foods may not be suitable for people who need to closely monitor and care for their blood sugar levels.

The problem with caffeine

Sugar isn’t the only concern for people with diabetes. The high caffeine content of 5-Hour Energy shots might also cause blood sugar problems.

A 2017 review reported that five out of seven studies suggested people with diabetes who consumed caffeine had higher and longer blood sugar spikes.

According to their website, 5-Hour Energy shots contain “as much caffeine as a cup of the leading premium coffee.” Caffeine content in a cup of coffee can fluctuate, however, based on the brand, brew time, and number of scoops. If you have diabetes, one to two cups of coffee may be all that’s necessary to cause a problem with your blood insulin levels.

Drinking too much caffeine may cause other problems as well, since it stimulates the nervous system. Consuming large quantities of caffeine in a short period of time may lead to a caffeine overdose. Side effects include:

A citrus-flavored, decaffeinated version of the shot is available as well.

Other ingredients

The 5-Hour Energy shot contains a variety of additional B vitamins and amino acids, such as B-12 and taurine. While unlikely, it’s possible these ingredients could interact with medications you’re taking. Be sure to confirm with your pharmacist that the shot is safe to take with your medications.

Every person responds to caffeine and artificial sweeteners differently. For some people with diabetes, 5-Hour Energy drinks can be consumed occasionally with zero unintended side effects or problems. However, the high quantity of caffeine or the artificial sweeteners may be too much for you.

It’s a good idea to speak with your doctor or dietitian before you use any energy drinks. The two of you can talk about the possible complications and side effects, and you can weigh those against your desire to experience a boost from caffeine. They can also help you get to the root of why you feel you need an increase in energy in the first place.

Your doctor can also help you understand what you should do in the event these shots do affect your blood sugar level and you become ill. You may not have an issue with the shot the first time you drink one, but it may cause a problem some point in the future. Use the shots as rarely as you can.