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Words of Wellness-The Need for Caffeine - May 22, 2013

By: Kate Adams

Dietitian at On With Life


I’ll be the first to admit I rarely go a morning without my cup of coffee, sometimes I think it’s more of a habit than an actual need for caffeine but nonetheless I have it daily. So is a little caffeine everyday a problem? Of course not, we all need something to get us out of bed, plus coffee is a great source of antioxidants! It does become a problem when it is consumed in excess or when found in our gum, candy, baked goods and soda. The worry is that consumers won’t realize how much caffeine they are taking in until they experience a dangerous symptom.


Some people are more susceptible to caffeine’s effects than others; some have a cup of coffee and are bouncing off the walls while other people can drink a pot of coffee every day. Typically 300-500mg is safe for most people, which is equivalent to 3-5 cups of coffee. 


The FDA does not currently regulate the amount of caffeine added to products and does not require amounts to be listed on nutrition labels. This is because caffeine is sold as a dietary supplement and the FDA does not regulate those either. Eleven of the 27 best-selling energy drinks do not list their caffeine content and those that do were found to have, on average, 20% more than what was listed.


Consumers need to make educated decisions about how much is enough for them, but this is easier said than done for children and adolescents. Many products are targeted towards this population and have been in the media lately. Last year public health experts sued energy drink makers over the accuracy of the information regarding caffeine content after deaths were associated with 5-Hour Energy and Monster Energy Drinks. Wrigley stopped production of their newest product, Alert Energy Gum, after several concerns from the FDA. Other surprising products that can be found with caffeine (I especially love the names): Wired Waffles, Cracker Jack’d Power Bites, NRG Potato Chips, Sumseeds Sunflower Seeds, Perky Jerky, energy gummy bears, caffeinated marshmallows, Jelly Belly Extreme Sport Beans, and AeroShot Caffeine Inhalers. 


Caffeine is found naturally in coffee beans, tea leaves and coconuts, however it is very bitter and in order to make a product taste great and be high in caffeine large amounts of sugar must be added which makes these beverages a less than healthy choice. If you are someone that enjoys your daily dose of caffeine keep the added sugars to a minimum by using creamer in your coffee or choosing sugar free energy drinks.