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Biotech Science

Why It's So Hard To Predict How Caffeine Will Affect Your Body 212

carmendrahl writes "Emergency-room visits linked to caffeine-laden energy drinks are on the rise. This gives scientists who'd like to see caffeine regulated the jitters. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seems to be dragging its feet on regulating caffeine content in food and drink, because people have different sensitivities to it (abstract). Currently, caffeine-rich products like Monster Energy get around the rules because they're marketed as dietary supplements. 'Caffeine gets cleared from the body at different rates because of genetic variations, gender, and even whether a person is a smoker. For this reason, it’s difficult to set a safe limit of daily consumption on the compound. Physiological differences, as well as differences in the way people consume caffeine, have tied FDA in knots as it has debated how to regulate the substance. ... The toxic level in humans, about 10 g, is roughly the equivalent of imbibing 75 cups of brewed coffee (in 8-oz mugs) or 120 cans of Red Bull over a few hours. But that lethal limit can vary widely from person to person, experts say."
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Why It's So Hard To Predict How Caffeine Will Affect Your Body

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  • Caffeine is a drug.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrbluze ( 1034940 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @05:47PM (#42789763) Journal
    The part about caffeine that is dangerous is that, like other stimulants, it gives the impression of improved brain performance without really delivering it. A fatigued person propped up with caffeine still makes mistakes related to fatigue. The other effects like jitters and palpitations is probably harmful to the heart in the long term also but it's less of a hazard to others.
  • by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @05:53PM (#42789855)
    It is, yes. But the FDA is definitely right that it affects people differently. I can drink a red bull, a monster, a coke, tea, or anything but coffee and easily take a long nap afterwards. Something about the caffeine I get through coffee is different. It actually makes me feel alert and awake. So is there some other chemical in coffee that increases the effectiveness of caffeine for me, or is the caffeine delivered differently? Does it have a slightly different composition? I don't know. But its a difference I can definitely feel.
  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:00PM (#42789959)

    Gut clogging quantities of HFCS most likely. Unless you drip a quarter cup of corn syrup into your coffee as a control.
    The no-cal versions have vast quantities of strange sweeteners.

    If you want a real control, assuming you can still legally buy caffeine pills OTC (or maybe over the net) like Vivaran (sp?) you can simply pop pills equal to however many milligrams you'd like. Drink some water to wash it down and maintain hydration and its almost guaranteed to be healthier for your innards than the additives in either drink.

    Its rather telling WRT lethal dosages that they used to sell vivarin caffeine pills in 50 packs (implying you can chug them all and live) but sleep aid pills in 5 packs (implying more than a couple and you're dead). Then again they sell tylenol in 500 capsule buckets at sams club so maybe my theory doesn't apply.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:08PM (#42790083)

    Whoops I forgot to mention that if a cup of raw corn syrup literally knocks you out despite the caffeine you might want to stop doing that until you mention it to your doctor who will probably order a glucose tolerance test to see if you have some insulin issues. That involves chugging a bottle of corn syrup with blood sugar level testing before and periodically after. Note that only an idiot would get official medical advice from /., but this was an accurate and true anecdotal summary of what my wife had to do (result in her case was nothing wrong with her).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:11PM (#42790133)

    Placebo effect maybe?
    Asking this because I used to play a prank to a friend of mine whenever he came for dinner: He always complained about being unable to fall asleep after drinking coffee, so since we all drank coffee after dinner I started giving him decaf without him knowing.
    Guess what, when asked the day after or a couple of days later he would say that he had difficulty falling asleep with decaf as well... Well, he didn't knew it was decaf.
    After a couple of repeats I finally told him that we were giving him decaf.... and I switch, started giving him coffee again. You got it, when asked he would say that he didn't had any problem falling asleep.

    But then again, it may not be the case with you.

  • How? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ak3ldama ( 554026 ) <james_akeldama@[ ] ['yah' in gap]> on Monday February 04, 2013 @06:21PM (#42790317) Homepage Journal

    How can they regulate this? You can go to almost any grocery/goods store and buy a 33 ounch can of ground coffee. They would surely let you buy as many of these as you wish to. Since a bunch of stupid white kids drink monsters too fast they now need to pursue regulation of it? Really? I know, maybe they should pass a law stating that energy drinks cannot taste better than coffee so as to damper the enthusiam with which these drinks are imbibed. Dumb.

    Caveat of my own stupidity: While in the dorms one weekend night I drank two pots of coffee in a relatively short span of time. What would that be? Maybe 2x 6x cups of coffee? So somewhere around 1200mg or so? Anyways my stomach hurt, my head kinda spun, and my legs twitched a little as I laid in bed wondering when I would fall asleep. I learned from that to take it easy.

  • by Ellis D. Tripp ( 755736 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @07:10PM (#42791017) Homepage

    Why pay that much? They sell it by the kilo for $30. []

    10X as much for only 50% more...

  • Re:Just tax it. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dixonpete ( 1267776 ) on Monday February 04, 2013 @10:56PM (#42793057)
    For me caffeine gave me a 25 year mood disorder that mimicked Bipolar II. Docs were clueless. My symptoms disappeared after going cold turkey 4.5 years ago. Caffeine is seriously underrated as to how dangerous it is.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.