Coffee is one of the most popular beverages worldwide. Coffee contains approximately 2% to 3% of caffeine. Although coffee is known to have health benefits, it may not be good for your heart if consumed regularly over time or in large amounts. Also, there are some concerns about possible harmful effects from long term consumption of coffee such as cancer risk and heart disease risk.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the manufacture, labeling, packaging, advertising and sale of food products containing caffeine. According to the FDA’s website: “Caffeine is a stimulant alkaloid found naturally in certain plants including tea leaves.” The FDA considers any product with more than 0.5 mg/serving of caffeine to be adulterated.
In the United States, caffeine is generally considered safe when consumed in moderation. However, excessive use of caffeine may cause adverse reactions including anxiety, insomnia, nervousness and restlessness. There are no studies showing that drinking caffeinated beverages causes cancer or other diseases.
However, there is evidence that consuming too much caffeine can lead to weight gain and dehydration. Drinking caffeinated drinks excessively may increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
The lethal dose of caffeine varies from species to species. It has been reported that ingestion of 10 g or more of caffeine may be lethal to humans. In general, the lethal dose is between 3 g and 5 g for an average adult.
The safe daily limit of caffeine is considered to be about 400 mg per day. This amount is roughly equivalent to 4 cups of coffee or 10 cans of soda.
The long-term effects of caffeine intake are not known. The FDA reports that the only documented health problems linked to caffeine were pregnancy-related: caffeinated coffee and tea may contribute to miscarriages. Caffeine may also worsen the excitability of people with medical conditions such as heart rhythm abnormalities, anxiety, and epilepsy.
The FDA states that moderate daily caffeine use does not pose health risks for most adults. For women who are pregnant or lactating, or who have a family history of medical issues, it is best to limit caffeine intake.
There is no standard for the amount of caffeine in hot beverages such as coffee or tea. Manufacturers can display whatever they want on the label as long as it doesn’t exceed 100% of the actual content. This means that a 12-ounce soda can be labeled as 0.0% caffeine even if it contains 0.03 ounce of caffeine.
Caffeine overdose can happen when you consume too much. Common effects of an overdose include restlessness, insomnia, excitement and cardiac arrhythmias. In extreme cases, caffeine overdose may cause death.
FDA’s Food Safety Regulations
The FDA has set a limit on the amount of caffeine that can be added to food and beverages. However, it does not have the power to stop products containing high levels of caffeine if no food additive regulation exists for those substances.
The United States does not have regulations for substances such as guarana or kola nut extract. These products are sold with wildly varying levels of caffeine per serving. For example, an 8-ounce soda drink can contain 75 milligrams of caffeine, which is less than the 100-milligram guideline for beverages.
However, a “mountain dew” product can contain 54 mg of caffeine in one ounce, which is much more than the guideline.
Guarana and kola nut extract are not regulated by the FDA. These ingredients may be added to any food or beverage at any concentration. The only guideline is that the packaging must state the amount of the additives per serving.
The FDA does not have guidelines for the amount of guarana or kola nut extract that can be added to a product. The only restriction is that companies are required to state the percentage of these ingredients on the product label.
Caffeine in Soft Drinks
The FDA limits the amount of caffeine that can be added to sodas and other beverages. In October 2013, the FDA decided to ban the addition of caffeine in soft drinks in the United States. Companies were given a deadline of December 2015 to comply with this ruling.
This means that beverages like “Jolt”, “Monster”, and “Full Throttle” will no longer be available on store shelves.
High school students are reportedly unhappy with this decision. The ban will certainly decrease the variety of soft drinks available to them. The FDA is hopeful that this decrease in choices will make it easier for educators to monitor and restrict their students’ caffeine intake.
Caffeine in Alcoholic Beverages
In 2011, the FDA warned four manufacturers of alcoholic beverages that they would face legal consequences if they continued to add caffeine to their products. The alcohol industry has long been accused of deliberately targeting underage drinkers with novelty beverages. Theses warnings were a part of the FDA’s efforts to reduce youth access to harmful ingredients that may increase their risk of developing substance abuse disorders.
The following alcoholic beverages will no longer be available for sale:
“Full Throttle” – This product contains 11% alcohol by volume and was laced with 145 milligrams of caffeine per 12 fluid ounce bottle.
“AMP” – This beverage contains 6.5% alcohol by volume and was laced with 135 milligrams of caffeine per 12 fluid ounce bottle.
“Four Loco” – This beverage contains 9.09% alcohol by volume and was laced with 90 milligrams of caffeine per 12 fluid ounce bottle.
“Minnesota iced”—This beverage contains 6.5% alcohol by volume and was laced with 75 milligrams of caffeine per 12 fluid ounce bottle.
These products were specifically targeted due to the presence of harmful ingredients that are known to increase the risk of youth substance abuse. These ingredients may increase the appeal of these alcoholic beverages to young people and risk the development of future addictions.
Caffeine Health Risks
There is a lot of controversy over whether or not caffeine is harmful to human health. The FDA has thousands of comments from companies that argue the benefits of caffeine. Many of these claims describe the positive effects of caffeine on the central nervous system and how it increases concentration and reduces fatigue.
However, there are several studies that link caffeine to other health issues such as:
Stress – Large amounts of caffeine can increase your stress levels. Several studies have shown that people suffer from higher anxiety when exposed to high amounts of caffeine.
Insomnia – Caffeine is a diuretic that causes you to need to urinate more often. When you become dehydrated, you are more likely to suffer from drowsiness, which decreases your ability to stay awake.
Increased Heart Rate – Caffeine increases your heart rate by up to 15% which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Blood Pressure – Large amounts of caffeine increase your blood pressure by up to thirty percent, which puts you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke.
Many people become addicted to caffeine. The drug creates physical and psychological dependencies that make it nearly impossible for some people to stop using it. According to the FDA, caffeine is most commonly abused by people between the ages of 18 and 34.
It is one of the most commonly used drugs in the world and can seriously impact your long-term health if used improperly.
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Sources & references used in this article:
Updates on team rhabdomyolysis, caffeine fatalities, and heat cramping by ER Eichner – Current sports medicine reports, 2015 – journals.lww.com
FDA Goes After 5 Pure Powdered Caffeine Distributors With Warning Letters by TA Wilson – InsideHealthPolicy. com’s FDA Week, 2015 – JSTOR
Amarin, FDA Work Toward Settlement In Off-Label Promotion Case by TA Wilson – InsideHealthPolicy. com’s FDA Week, 2015 – JSTOR