Is caffeine consumption in the U.S. out of control?
At one time, adding caffeine to a product was the domain of cola drinks only. In fact, according to a statement released on April 29 by Michael R. Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not really broached the question of adding caffeine to a product since the 1950s:
The only time that FDA explicitly approved the added use of caffeine in a food was for cola and that was in the 1950s. Today, the environment has changed. Children and adolescents may be exposed to caffeine beyond those foods in which caffeine is naturally found and beyond anything FDA envisioned when it made the determination regarding caffeine in cola. For that reason, FDA is taking a fresh look at the potential impact that the totality of new and easy sources of caffeine may have on health, particularly vulnerable populations such as children and youth, and if necessary, will take appropriate action.
This statement was made in response to the launch of a new caffeinated gum.
Bottom Line: Is Caffeine Bad for Health?
It seems these days that consumers will reach for anything that contains caffeine, thinking it will give them the “boost” they need to make it through the day. But, could this love affair with caffeine have a negative effect on health?
According to the Mayo Clinic, much of the problem with caffeine is simply consuming too much. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system. This is why so many of us feel that “jolt” that comes with a big cup of java in the afternoon. Caffeine, in moderation, really can alleviate fatigue, increase wakefulness and improve concentration and focus, the Mayo Clinic indicates. However, too much caffeine can result in a myriad of symptoms, including:
- Stomach upset
- Fast heartbeat
- Muscle tremors
Typically, a moderate amount of caffeine is okay for an adult. It is hard to pinpoint exactly how much a caffeine a cup of coffee might have, because of all of the different sizes, blends and brewing methods out there. But, the Mayo Clinic indicates that two to four cups of brewed coffee will generally contain the moderate daily amount of caffeine—200 to 300 mg—that they consider within an acceptable range for the average adult. Some people, of course, may have higher sensitivity to caffeine, and may be able to tolerate less before feeling negative side effects.
But, Really, Caffeinated Gum?
But, when we start putting caffeine in our gum? Have we taken our love affair too far?
It seems likely that most people taking the step of chewing caffeinated gum are probably already consuming caffeine via other sources. And, if you “need” the added effect of a caffeine-enhanced gum, perhaps it is time to look at one’s overall consumption, particularly if you are trying to counter a lack of sleep with huge amounts of caffeine. The Mayo Clinic website explains:
Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night. But caffeine can interfere with this much-needed sleep. Chronically losing sleep — whether it's from work, travel, stress or too much caffeine — results in sleep deprivation. Sleep loss is cumulative, and even small nightly decreases can add up and disturb your daytime alertness and performance.
So, while a moderate amount of caffeine may be fine for most adults, as America’s ongoing love affair with caffeine continues, it might be a good idea to examine one’s overall daily intake of caffeine before reaching for the caffeinated gum, as well.
Image: Wikimedia Commons