Lethal in Small Doses
The FDA has issued a warning against powdered caffeine after the death of Logan Stiner, an Ohio teen. The powder, available on the internet, could be lethal even in small doses; one teaspoon equals 25 cups of coffee. The powder, marketed as a dietary supplement, is unregulated and consumers may be unaware of its dangers, even though they may know of caffeine’s less serious side effects. The FDA warns that caffeine powder is almost impossible to measure with common kitchen tools. In addition, users may not be aware that even a small amount could be lethal. One consumer advocate praised the FDA’s warning but said the agency didn’t go far enough to keep the powder off the market. The FDA is considering taking regulatory action to further protect consumers.
FDA Investigates Product Safety
Wrigley has suspended sales of of its new Alert Energy “out of respect” for the FDA which will investigate the health effects of this caffeinated gum, a stick of which equals half a cup of coffee. Casey Keller, president of Wrigley North America, says the company stopped production and sales of the gum after a discussion with the FDA about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation’s food supply and to give the agency time to regulate caffeine-added products. Wrigley’s decision “demonstrates real leadership and commitment to the public health,” says Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner of foods. Health experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have warned that too much caffeine can be dangerous to children who have more difficulty processing it than adults.
Helps Patients Control Movement
Caffeine may ease symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, finds a McGill U study. A psychomotor stimulant, caffeine eases tiredness associated with Parkinson’s, explains lead author Dr. Ronald Postuma who aimed to discover how it might impact symptoms including slowness of movement, muscle stiffness and shaking. The small-scale study gave one group of patients 100 mg doses of caffeine 2x/day for 3 weeks followed by 3 weeks of 200 mg of caffeine 2x/day. The control group received a placebo. Those who received caffeine experienced an improvement in their motor symptoms. "This was due to improvement in speed of movement and a reduction in stiffness,” says Dr. Postuma. Caffeine did not affect nighttime sleep. Larger scale studies need to be carried out to support these findings, say researchers.
Easily Worth Occasional Jitters
According to a report in the journal Cancer Research, persons who consume caffeine each day in an amount equal to more than two cups of caffeinated coffee could be reducing their risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer. The preventive effect holds whether the caffeine is consumed in coffee or in other forms, such as tea, colas, other sodas, energy drinks or even chocolate. The study also found that the more total caffeine consumed overall, the lower the risk. Previous studies have additionally linked increased caffeine intake with lowered risks of such serious conditions as type 2 diabetes, certain oral cancers, cirrhosis of the liver, and Parkinson's disease. Researchers caution against overconsumption, however, since caffeine can be addicting.
The More the Merrier
Researchers from China have discovered that the consumption of coffee is related to a lowered risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. In the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Ling Zheng, Kun Huang and colleagues explain that some compounds in coffee, including caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid, appear to block substances in the body that contribute to the process that leads to inadequate insulin levels and high blood sugar. The team says that people who drink four or more cups daily have a 50 percent lower risk of developing the condition and every additional cup brings another decrease in risk of almost 7 percent. Caffeine did not appear to have an effect, so it is suspected that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee would have benefits.
Want Sugar with Your Sunscreen?
Another animal study has confirmed caffeine’s ability to protect against some skin cancers through inhibition of the ATR enzyme. The ATR gene in mice was modified to produce lower levels of the enzyme. Those mice developed tumors at a slower rate, had 69 percent fewer tumors and only one-fourth the number of invasive tumors compared to wild type mice. Chronic exposure to UV light generated tumors in both groups of mice suggesting that it may be better to inhibit ATR before skin cancer develops. Over one million cases of skin cancer in the U.S. occur, primarily due to sunlight exposure. Researchers think that applying caffeine to the skin before going out in the sun may provide protection.
For Those at Risk
Coffee has had a bad reputation for being harmful to health, but recent studies have found positive benefits to consumption of a cup. Unfortunately, not the researchers at the University Medical Center in Utrecht, The Netherlands. They found coffee to be one of eight triggers that could temporarily raise one’s risk of rupturing an intracranial aneurysm (IA) – a weakness in the wall of a brain blood vessel that causes it to balloon and possibly rupture. An estimated 2 percent of the general population has an IA, but few rupture. Coffee consumption increase the risk by 10.6 percent, find the researchers. Other triggers include cola consumption, vigorous physical exercise, nose blowing, being angry or startled, and having sex. The risk is also slightly higher after consuming alcohol.
Different for Everyone
Heartburn is caused when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus caused by an abnormal weakening or relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (found between the stomach and the esophagus). It causes a pain or burning in the chest, usually after eating. The good news is that avoiding certain foods known to trigger acid reflux can help relieve symptoms. First, you might try abstaining from acidic foods such as citrus fruits and their juices, including oranges and grapefruits. Tomatoes are also acidic foods to avoid. Spicy foods are a trigger for some, as are foods that are high in fat. Chocolate and peppermint are also known triggers. For beverages, alcohol, coffee and other caffeinated drinks, and carbonated liquids such as soda can affect heartburn symptoms.
Four Loko Blackout in a Can
Both Washington and Michigan have banned the sale of highly caffeinated, heavy-alcohol beverages popularly known as “blackout in a can” following the hospitalization of nine students from Central Washington University last month. Concerns raised in 2008 have caused major brewers such as Anheuser Busch inBev and SABMiller to stop making high-alcohol energy drinks, but smaller companies continue to produce them, such as Phusion Projects who makes Four Loko, the beverage that caused the hospitalization. According to CWU officials, the blood-alcohol level of the students ranged from .123 to .35 (.30 is considered lethal). Caffeine suspends the effects of alcohol, allowing a person to continue to drink long after they normally would have stopped.
Baby, It’s Hot Outside
The National Weather Service says heat waves cause more “fatalities per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.” The elderly, children and pets are most at risk. To stay safe: Don’t leave a child or pet unattended in a hot car where the temperature can soar from hot to deadly in a matter of minutes. Keep clothing light and airy. Carry an umbrella to protect against the sun’s rays. Drink lots of water and avoid alcohol or caffeine which drain the body of fluids. The Red Cross suggests eating small meals during the day and avoid “high protein foods which can increase metabolic heat.” Sunburn makes it harder for the body to dissipate heat so, if you must be in the sun, slather on the sunscreen. When the temperature soars above 90, try to stay indoors.
Researchers at Concordia U evaluated the effect of a wide range of drugs, including alcohol, on sexual performance and found that, while you may think a glass of wine is the perfect intro to a romantic evening, you’re better off with iced tea. "In this broad-based and wide-reaching study, it appears that drugs and sex don't mix well," says researcher, Dr. James Pfaus. Using animal studies to conduct their research because “only animal model studies can provide direct cause and effect data and physiological information,” scientists found that most of the drugs, including alcohol, decreased sexual performance although “low levels of alcohol removed inhibitory tendencies” and “acute caffeine consumption facilitated sexual behavior in both male and female rats.” Coffee, anyone?
Go Ahead; Have That Cup of Joe
Coffee used to have a bad reputation of increasing the chances of strokes and coronary heart disease, but recent studies show the opposite is true. According to a 2009 Harvard Medical School study that tracked coffee habits and strokes among 83,000 American women for nearly a quarter century, drinking coffee lowers the risk of stroke by 19% among women. Research has also shown that women who drank one to three cups of coffee a day reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 24%, although it was noted that this benefit diminished as the quantity of coffee rose above three cups. Other recent studies have shown that coffee is protective against certain brain tumors, endometrial cancer and advanced prostate cancer.
Cuppa Joe a Day Is Healthy
Italian researchers have found that drinking caffeinated coffee appears to be associated with a lowered risk of certain oral cancers. In data pooled from nine case-control studies that included over 14,000 participants, caffeinated coffee consumption was associated with a 12% lowered risk developing cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx. Increasing consumption to four cups daily cut the risk by a third. Caffeine consumption was not found to lower the risk of laryngeal cancers. Decaffeinated coffee and tea were not found to be associated with lowering the risk of these head and neck cancers. The odds of getting head and neck cancer are about one in 10,000 in the United States. The research is published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention.
Coffee Is Better
"I am curious what type of tea was used in the study?"
- Beth in the comments
Women who drink four or more cups of tea per day are at a significantly increased risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis, finds a new study. The study, which involved more than 76,000 women, showed that drinking any amount of tea carried an increased risk of developing RA and that the risk factor goes up when more tea is consumed. The study showed no correlation between coffee consumption and the risk of RA. Said Professor Christopher Collins, Georgetown U Medical Center, "This does make us wonder what it is in tea, or in the method of preparation of tea that causes the significant increase in risk of developing RA.” Because no strong causation effect has been confirmed, RA sufferers should consult their physician before making any significant changes to their diets.
Know When to Fold Em
More than 80 percent of poker players report using drugs and/or other substances to enhance their card-playing skills, says a Nova Southeastern University study. Cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana, Valium, energy drinks and caffeine are among the drugs and substances cited by those who participated in the survey. "The use of these substances could allow poker players to stay awake longer, as well as focus and concentrate better, which would be a competitive advantage," said researcher Kevin Clauson, Pharm.D., NSU associate professor. "Stamina is important for any poker player because tournament poker and cash games can go on for many hours." NSU researchers initially interviewed players who were in Las Vegas for a World Series of Poker Tournament and then expanded their research globally.
13-Year-Old Asks for a Monster
Food and nutrition columnist Jennifer LaRue Huget of the Washington Post writes today about her worries when her 13-year-old son, influenced by extreme sports hero endorsements, asked to buy a Monster energy drink. Is it O.K. for kids, she wondered? Investigating, she discovered that it contains 160 milligrams of caffeine, about four times that in a can of Coca Cola. In addition, it contained a number of exotic additives. Most of them are probably harmless and all are on the FDA's approved food additives or GRAS (generally regarded as safe) lists. On the other hand, they probably do you no good either. More than the caffeine, the sugar dose worried Jennifer. In the end she decided that energy drinks wouldn't kill her kid, but she hopes he grows out of them.