Thursday, December 18, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Waking up to new concerns about caffeine

By
From page A6 | September 08, 2013 |

By Lee Bowman

The increasing use of caffeine as an additive in many foods and drinks has attracted considerable scrutiny from regulators and researchers. So have proposals to add the stimulant to such items as toothpaste or body sprays.

The Institute of Medicine last month spent two days hosting a forum on the potential health hazards of caffeine consumption at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which in turn is trying to decide if limits need to be imposed on how much of the stimulant can be added to various products.

That may take some time and more research. The conference revealed many gaps in scientific research into how caffeine delivered in new ways — such as in gum — may affect a person’s total daily intake, and how various doses may affect athletes, young people and others.

There have been some reports of deaths tied to consumption of energy drinks. The government says the products were linked to some 20,000 emergency-room visits in 2011.

Right now, the FDA only regulates caffeine that’s added to a food, drug or other product, but not when it occurs naturally. So, for instance, caffeine in pain relievers and cold pills is labeled, but the amounts contained in chocolate in candy bars are not. Neither are the amounts of caffeine included in energy drinks sold as dietary supplements.

Although people have been consuming caffeine for thousands of years, no one can be entirely sure what amounts to a safe or unsafe dose of caffeine, although for most people, the drug’s effects are mild and transient. Definitive answers on the possible benefits caffeine can bring are also far off.

At the extreme, scientists have set a toxic dose at somewhere around 10,000 milligrams. The average 8-ounce cup of coffee has 80 to 125 milligrams. A moderate dose is considered two to four cups a day.

Consuming 500 to 600 milligrams a day is enough to cause effects such as insomnia, nervousness, upset stomach, fast heartbeat or muscle spasms in many people.

The stimulant can be dangerous for people with heart-rhythm problems and high blood pressure, among other medical conditions.

And an estimated 20 percent of the population is thought to be caffeine-sensitive, to the point that just a few milligrams can produce the jitters or other problems.

On the flip side, the compound’s effects on the nervous system may benefit short-term memory. Several studies have found a decreased risk of liver disease among those who consume a four-cup dose of caffeine on a daily basis.

Some studies have linked an increase in caffeine consumption with a higher risk of miscarriage among pregnant women. The FDA advises pregnant women to avoid or limit caffeine intake.

Even if you want to monitor your caffeine intake from drinks, it can be difficult.

The amount can vary depending on how long or by what process a beverage is steeped or brewed. And since the effects of caffeine we ingest are usually felt within about 45 minutes, hot drinks that are sipped may have a different impact than cooler beverages that might be gulped or chugged.

Half the caffeine a person takes in gets eliminated in five or six hours, but men and smokers process it faster than women and nonsmokers.

Women on oral contraceptives break it down more slowly than others, while menstrual cycles may also play a role. Some studies have found lower estrogen levels in women who drink more than 200 mg a day.

For those who want to track consumption, color-changing caffeine test strips can tell whether a drink really is decaffeinated. The strips generally can distinguish a high-test brew from a low-test one. Federal regulations require that a product sold as decaf has to have 97.5 percent of caffeine removed, but consumer testing has shown that can leave 3 milligrams to dozens of milligrams in a serving.

But a new sensor kit, developed by scientists in Singapore and South Korea, applies a lab-on-a-disc technology to detect caffeine across a traffic-light-style spectrum of doses.

The sensor device, dubbed Caffeine Orange, works by exposing a drink sample to a green laser pointer, which then triggers a chemical reaction that lights up the sensor. High caffeine concentrations from coffee or energy drinks turn the sensor display reddish-orange, while teas and decaf drinks show up as yellow and green.

The new device was described in a paper published in July in the journal Scientific Reports.

— Contact Scripps health and science writer Lee Bowman at BowmanL@shns.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Former foster youths aided by UCD’s Guardian programs

    By Sarah Colwell | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Rain Recyclers saves water for another day

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Konditorei presents free holiday concert

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    City offices will take a winter break

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Supplies collected for victims of abuse

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    New technology chief will join McNaughton Newspapers

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Feds will discuss Berryessa Snow Mountain protection

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    ‘Longest Night’ service Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Journalist will join post-film discussion Thursday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Nominate teens for Golden Heart awards

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Yolo County needs a few good advisers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Per Capita Davis: Time to stop fooling around

    By John Mott-Smith | From Page: A4

     
    NAMI-Yolo offers free mental health education program

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    .

    Forum

    Marovich is a brilliant diplomat

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    And a jolly time was had by all

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

     
    Remember that all lives matter

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Pollution from electric vehicles

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Sports

    On skiing: What to know when buying new skis

    By Jeffrey Weidel | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devil boys host Les Curry beginning Thursday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    UCD women gear up for second half of swim season

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Aggie men begin 4-game road trip at Air Force

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Youth roundup: DBC Juniors rider Kanz wins a cyclocross event

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    College Corner: How does applying for financial aid work?

    By Jennifer Borenstein | From Page: B3

     
    What’s happening

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: B3

     
    Anniversary: Barbara and Jan Carter

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    Something growing in the mailbox

    By Don Shor | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Arts

    Sing and dance along to Cold Shot at Froggy’s

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7 | Gallery

     
    Point of Brew: Recollections of Christmases past

    By Michael Lewis | From Page: A7

    Come ‘Home for the Holidays’ and benefit school arts

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    Golden Bough brings Irish holidays to The Palms

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Rena Sylvia Smilkstein

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, December 18, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6

     
    .

    Last Minute Gift Guide

    Young phenoms make YouTube success look like child’s play

    By The Associated Press | From Page: LMG1

    Classic or contemporary, it’s all holiday music to our ears

    By The Associated Press | From Page: LMG2

    Teen gifts: ideas for hard-to-buy-for big kids

    By The Associated Press | From Page: LMG3

    Gift ideas for the health-conscious

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: LMG6

    Hall of Fame proudly puts these toys on the shelf

    By The Associated Press | From Page: LMG7