I love my morning coffee and my afternoon tea. This caffeinated break is part of my daily ritual, and probably yours, too.
When coffee came to the New World in the 1600s, it shared the table with a popular drink of the time - rum. Picture that, rum in the morning, rum for lunch and rum for dinner. Those Puritans consumed four times as much alcohol annually as we do. Imagine how that affected efficiency back in the day.
But as far as caffeine goes, can you overdo it? Can there be too much caffeine? And if you do want to cut back on caffeine, what other things is it in besides that coffeehouse brew?
These are the questions that researchers wanted to answer. Their findings were published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Caffeine in moderate amounts is just fine, but for those who consume the equivalent of eight to 12 mugs of coffee a day, it can cause the jitters. Caffeine also is a diuretic that may cause loss of fluid and possible dehydration issues, even leading to heat exhaustion in some cases.
But here’s the problem with too much caffeine: Some people simply might not know they are getting it. In particular, anyone who regularly partakes in supplements or energy drinks should be wary. This research has shown that people might not really know what they’re taking because of what I call “labeling lies.”
Here’s what the research found: 20 out of 30 supplements listed the amount of caffeine in the product. But for half of these, the stated amount of caffeine was wrong. Some had hardly any, while others were off the wall.
Six of the supplement products in the study stated they had caffeine without giving an amount. These had lots of caffeine, most trending in the 200 to 300 milligram range - more than a tall Starbucks Dark Roast.
Now, if you go further and look at energy drinks, you’ll find that caffeine can be quite high in general. Full Throttle has 210 milligrams, 5-Hour Energy has 215 milligrams and Rockstar Energy Shot has 229 milligrams in every can. Compare that to a can of Coke, which has 71 milligrams of caffeine, and a cup of McDonalds coffee, which has 100.
The problem here is truth in labeling. You may be having side-effects from your energy shot or pill because you don’t realize it has that much caffeine. Federal regulators have been asleep at the wheel on this because they don’t demand that caffeine amounts be accurately labeled on the supplements we take.
So should you stop taking your energy booster? I don’t think I’d go that far. I do love my espresso. What I would say is if you’re consuming a supplement and you’ve got the jitters, the supplement or shot may be the culprit.
My spin: Buyer beware. When you brew a cup of java or buy it from your local barista, you know what you’re getting. If you take an energy booster, it’s a pig in a poke. Stay well.
Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, university professor, author and broadcast journalist. He also hosts a popular radio call-in program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WNED.