Question of the Week

September 29, 2008


Most everyone has heard of it.
Most everyone has, at some point, consumed it in one form or another. /font>

"Caffeine is a drug that is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. It's also produced artificially and added to certain foods. Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system, causing increased alertness. Caffeine gives most people a temporary energy boost and elevates mood. Caffeine is in tea, coffee, chocolate, many soft drinks, and pain relievers and other over-the-counter medications. In its natural form, caffeine tastes very bitter. But most caffeinated drinks have gone through enough processing to camouflage the bitter taste. Teens usually get most of their caffeine from soft drinks and energy drinks. ... Caffeine is not stored in the body, but you may feel its effects for up to 6 hours. Many people feel that caffeine increases their mental alertness. Higher doses of caffeine can cause anxiety, dizziness, headaches, and the jitters. Caffeine can also interfere with normal sleep."

While caffeine is a drug consumed by people of all ages, this past week there was concern as it was announced that Terrell Owens will be endorsing the an energy drink.

"Less than 24 hours after the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group announced that the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver would endorse its energy drink Venom, a group of researchers at Johns Hopkins said that energy drinks should carry warning labels that site potential health risks. The risks cited are what you might expect of any product that has an intense amount of caffeine, including rapid heart rate, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Venom seems to have the standard amount of caffeine as compared to other energy drinks. ... [V]arious Web sites have reported that its close to the 10 milligrams of caffeine per ounce that are in well known brands in the category such as Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster. Although the FDA requires any soft drink that has more than six milligrams per ounce to list the amount of caffeine on the can, producers of energy drinks often get around any labeling by marketing their drinks as dietary supplements."*blog*&par=RSS

Some consume energy drinks as they would soft drinks. Some consume them when they are trying to stay awake. Some drink them for the taste, the look, the endorsement, or any other of a list of reasons.

While some may want the extra caffeine, it can be difficult to know how much caffeine one is getting in an energy drink, and how this amount compares to other caffeinated drinks.

"As a comparison, energy drinks typically contain half the caffeine found in regular coffeehouse coffee. Specifically, a 16-ounce regular blend coffee at a popular coffeehouse contains 320 mg of caffeine, while a comparable size mainstream energy drink contains about 160 mg."

"A regular 12-ounce cola drink has about 35 milligrams of caffeine, and a 6-ounce cup of brewed coffee has 80 to 150 milligrams of caffeine. Because many energy drinks are marketed as 'dietary supplements,' the limit that the Food and Drug Administration requires on the caffeine content of soft drinks (71 milligrams per 12-ounce can) does not apply. The caffeine content of energy drinks varies from 50 to more than 500 milligrams."

The "typical" energy drink may have less caffeine than a coffeehouse coffee, but there is such a range, and no labeling requirement. As a dietary supplement, it can be difficult to know how much caffeine a specific drink contains.

"Regulation of energy drinks, including content labeling and health warnings differs across countries, with some of the most lax regulatory requirements in the U.S. The absence of regulatory oversight has resulted in aggressive marketing of energy drinks, targeted primarily toward young males, for psychoactive, performance-enhancing and stimulant drug effects. There are increasing reports of caffeine intoxication from energy drinks, and it seems likely that problems with caffeine dependence and withdrawal will also increase. In children and adolescents who are not habitual caffeine users, vulnerability to caffeine intoxication may be markedly increased due to an absence of pharmacological tolerance."

Not knowing how much caffeine one is consuming can cause side effects and addiction to sneak up on people who may not realize that caffeine, in excess, can have negative health effects. Then, like with anything, it is a matter of finding moderation.

As people limit consumption and attempt to find that healthy balance, symptoms of withdrawal are rare.

"However, with excess use, over 500 mg daily (approximately 5 cups of coffee) over a long period of time, sudden cessation could cause symptoms of withdrawal. You can avoid caffeine withdrawal by limiting your daily consumption, being educated about sources of caffeine, and by gradually decreasing the consumption rather than ending use abruptly."

Questions of the Week:
What do you know about the sources of caffeine in your diet? How can get the information that you need in order to make educated decisions about the quantity of caffeine that you are consuming? What do you think your peers and family members should know about caffeine and its possible side effects? Why is this information important for anyone who is consuming caffeine?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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