It’s recognized that in this country caffeine is a vital part of just about everyone’s life on a daily basis. Reportedly, more than 100 million Americans drink coffee each and every day. Most experts consider caffeine to be a “safe” drug, but it’s recognized that it can be dangerous and lead to all sorts of side effects if taken in high enough quantities. While minor symptoms of caffeine overdose can include headache, diarrhea, fever and irritability more severe symptoms can include vomiting, chest pains, trouble breathing and convulsions. Obviously the latter group is considered quite serious.
It’s quite evident that energy drinks have become quite popular. Those like Red Bull or Monster deliver much higher amounts of caffeine than does coffee. An average energy drink will have up to 242 milligrams of caffeine per serving. Compare that to an 8-ounce cup of coffee, which contains only 100 milligrams. Caffeine powders are another source of concern for fatal overdosing, primarily due to their concentration.
The FDA reports that it is aware of at least two deaths due to powdered caffeine. In 2010, a twenty-three year old man died after ingesting two spoonsful of caffeine power, the equivalent of about 50 Red Bull energy drinks. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, powdered caffeine is the most dangerous dietary supplement currently on the market.
Although adults can safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine per day, children should only consume 45-85 milligrams per day depending on their weight. The fact that energy drinks and caffeine powders deliver such a high dose at once are a major concern for parents, advocacy groups and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA states, “Symptoms of caffeine overdoes can include rapid or dangerous erratic heartbeat, seizures and death. Vomiting, diarrhea stupor and disorientation are also symptoms of caffeine toxicity.”
Because caffeine powders are classified as a “dietary supplement,” regulation is very loose and nonexistent for the most part. Caffeine powders are generally not available in stores, but can be purchased online. According to an article on WebMD Health News, for approximately $10, an individual can purchase 100,000 milligrams of caffeine powder, an amount equivalent to more than 1,000 Red Bulls. In the FDA’s Consumer Advice on Pure Powdered Caffeine, it states that “it is nearly impossible to accurately measure pure powdered caffeine with common kitchen measuring tools and you can easily consume a lethal amount.”
While caffeine may seem like a harmless way to get us “going in the morning,” it can be very dangerous and even fatal if taken in high enough doses. That’s exactly why all of us should exercise extreme caution when using energy drinks or powdered caffeine. I would recommend avoiding the use of both energy drinks and the powdered caffeine products and stick to coffee for caffeine.
Sources: FDA, Center for Science in the Public Interest, WebMD
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