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Chuck, everywhere I turn, there are caffeinated drinks and foods. I heard on the news that the Food and Drug Administration is looking into caffeine’s effects on children’s health because they are consuming so much of it. Tell us what you know, and what are your favorite natural energy boosters? – “Crazy on Caffeine” in Colorado
In a tired and restless world, “energy” is the name of the game, and the beverage and food industry agrees. First, it was the proliferation of energy drinks, and then came energy shots, but now it has advanced to include popular foods, snacks and even medicine and toiletries.
For example, Alert energy gum is the name of the new chewing product by Wrigley, and it packs a caffeine punch that promises, “The Right Energy, Right Now.”
According to Wrigley’s website, what that means is: “One piece of Alert Energy contains about as much caffeine (40mg) as 1/2 cup of coffee.”
And with eight pieces in every pack, a consumer can carry the equivalent of four cups of coffee in his or her pocket!
And gum is just one item in a long list of products that include the bitter, white, crystalline xanthine alkaloid that acts as a stimulant we call caffeine. Candy, nuts and other snack foods (including cookies and yogurt) are also among those that manufacturers have added caffeine to in recent years.
For example, the Associated Press noted that Jelly Belly Extreme Sport Beans have “50 mg of caffeine in each 100-calorie pack, while Arma Energy Snx markets trail mix, chips and other products that have caffeine.”
What’s next? Caffeinated toothpaste?
Too late. It already exists. One is called – what else? – Buzz, a peppermint-flavored breath freshener that promises to pack the same punch “as a cup of Starbucks coffee or a can of Mountain Dew.” Of course, we already knew that caffeine is present in soft drinks, some over-the-counter diet pills (popular among youths), cold medications and pain relievers.
And if that’s not enough, we now have Wired Waffles (with 200 milligrams of caffeine each), Perky Jerky (with 150 milligrams of caffeine in a 2-ounce pack), Arma potato chips (with 70 milligrams of caffeine per 2-ounce bag) and PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay reinvention Cracker Jack’D (70 milligrams of caffeine in a 2-ounce bag), or you can go right for the jugular (or the lungs) by breathing in an AeroShot caffeine inhaler, which delivers “airborne energy” from fine powder in a lipstick-sized canister (100 milligrams of caffeine).
And let’s not forget that more and more adolescents and young adults are living on a steady stream of 5-hour Energy shots (208 milligrams of caffeine) and “sodas” such as Full Throttle (200 mg), Monster Energy Drink (160 mg), Rockstar (160 mg), original Amp (140 mg) and Red Bull (80 mg).
Though some caffeinated products, including Alert energy gum, warn they are “not recommended for children,” consumer advocates are wondering how kids can possibly refrain from them when they appear among other brands in some of the brightest, most appealing packaging. Additionally, savvy social media marketing techniques often are used in the launches of these products, and the targets of those are also the younger generations.
(You can check the caffeine levels of more than 100 of the most popular foods and beverages on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s website, at CSPInet.org.)
As a result of this caffeine craze (or should that be “crazy”?), the Food and Drug Administration said it will embark on a study of foods with added caffeine, particularly on their effects on the health of children and teens. That is on top of the FDA’s investigating the health risks of energy drinks and energy shots.
The AP reported: “Last November, the FDA said it had received 92 reports over four years that cited illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths after consumption of an energy shot marketed as 5-Hour Energy. The FDA said it had also received reports that cited the highly caffeinated Monster Energy Drink in several deaths.”
Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, explained in a statement to the AP that the multiplying “new and easy sources” of caffeine-added foods is “beyond anything FDA envisioned.”
Taylor added that the only time the FDA forthrightly approved caffeine additives in a food or drink was in the 1950s for colas. In 2010, the FDA forced manufacturers of alcoholic caffeinated beverages to stop producing those drinks, which the agency said could lead to a “wide-awake drunk” and has led to alcohol poisoning, assaults and car accidents.
We know that small and moderate amounts of caffeine in healthy adults with a good diet and lifestyle can bring a few limited benefits, but what our society lacks is a big picture of its effects in high amounts on children and adolescents, especially in the long term. As of 2004, children ages 6 to 9 ingested only about 22 milligrams of caffeine daily from various foods and drinks.
Next week, based upon scientific studies, I will explain exactly how high doses of caffeine can be hazardous to human health, especially to children and teens, as well as explain some natural energy-boosting alternatives that you and your family can enjoy.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.