Getting a caffeine fix can go way too far. We’ve given warnings in the past about flavored caffeinated powder and energy drinks, but manufacturers continue to find insidious ways to try to sell you “energy”—and put your health in danger.
The newest attempt: Dietary supplements containing highly concentrated caffeine— shocking amounts with potentially devastating effects. Concentrated caffeine products have been related to at least two deaths in the United States. The FDA is warning consumers to stay away.
The FDA also sent letters in June 2018 to two companies—Dual Health Body and Mind and liquidcaffeine.com—warning that it is unlawful to sell highly concentrated caffeine as a powder or liquid in bulk packaging.
Dual Health Body and Mind sells packages of caffeine powder ranging in size from a few ounces to 5-1/2 pounds (containing as much caffeine as 12,500 cups of coffee).
The package’s “recommended serving” of caffeine is 200 milligrams (as much as in two cups of coffee), but that’s a scant 1/16 of a teaspoon of the powder, a size of measuring spoon that many people don’t have. Even if they did, a small variation in the measurement can be toxic. A heaping measurement or using tightly packed powder can deliver a life-threatening amount, the FDA said.
The liquid caffeine sold by Liquidcaffeine.com comes in 16-ounce packages. Until recently, it was sold with a utensil that measured out one fluid ounce, or six teaspoons. A safe amount is only two-and-a-half teaspoons. After the FDA’s warning, the company now includes a pump that dispenses a more reasonable and safer one teaspoon.
THE HIGH RISKS OF HIGH DOSE CAFFEINE
Caffeine stimulates your nervous system. Yes, it helps you feel alert, but it can also give you heartburn or upset stomach, raise your blood pressure, cause an increase in urination and interfere with calcium absorption. And that’s from the amount in run-of-the-mill coffee.
Highly concentrated caffeine products can have much more serious side effects. A single teaspoon of pure caffeine powder, which delivers the amount of caffeine in 28 cups of coffee, can cause:
- Heart palpitations
Up the dose to a tablespoon, and you may experience:
- Skyrocketing blood sugar
- Chest pain
- An irregular or rapid heart beat
- Low potassium level
- A drop in carbon dioxide blood levels from labored breathing
- Possible death
BETTER WAYS TO PERK UP
If you want a boost from caffeine, stick with safe caffeinated drinks such as coffee or tea. Up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, the amount found in four or five cups of coffee, is safe, according to the FDA—it may even be good for you, but be sure to count all the caffeine you get in a day, including from that afternoon green tea.
Also consider these healthy alternatives—you may find yourself relying less on caffeine for any energy boost…
Take a few trips up and down the stairs. A study that included 18 college students found that taking just 10 minutes to walk up and down a flight of stairs was more energizing than getting 50 milligrams of caffeine or about a half-cup of coffee.
Cut out sugary drinks once and for all. Grabbing a sweet soda or sweet caffeinated drink can lead to a spike and then a crash in your energy level, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Reach for water, fat-free milk or unsweetened iced tea instead.
Eat a meal or snack every three hours. Having a light lunch instead of a heavy one and eating a healthy snack a few hours later helps supply your brain with nutrients to keep you alert, according to the Harvard Medical School.
Take four deep breaths. Stress saps your energy, but you can feel revived by taking deep breaths. One way to do this, based on advice from the Mayo Clinic, is to consciously breathe from your diaphragm. How? Read “The Right Way to Breathe.”