Kaylyn Boccia, Staff Writer
The old saying, “everything in moderation” may be extremely true when it comes to the consumption of caffeine. On October 22 the Food and Drug Administration made an announcement of five deaths and a heart attack that may have been related to the consumption of the energy drink Monster.
One reported death was of a 14-year-old girl caused by caffeine toxicity. She suffered a heart attack after consuming two 24-ounce cans of Monster, which is equal to about 480 milligrams of caffeine. This kind of death from caffeine is very rare, but is possible when consuming an extreme amount. To put caffeine toxicity into perspective, a 150 lb woman would have to drink 50 cups of coffee to reach a toxic level.
Energy drinks differ from coffee in that there are other stimulants mixed with the already high levels of pure caffeine. Keri Peterson, physician on the Women’s Health advisory board, says “Many of these drinks not only have very high caffeine levels, but they also combine them with other herbs that contain caffeine such as guarana and yerba mate, which can cause significant side effects.”
Although caffeine toxicity is not a common cause of death, there have been many reported hospital visits or dangerous incidents related to an over-consumption of caffeine. If you are looking to watch your caffeine consumption, the American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs has set a suggested caffeine intake of no more than 250 mg a day, or about three 8-oz cups of coffee.
For many coffee drinkers, or “caffeine-aholics,” it might seem like an energy drink has less caffeine and less of an effect on your body; however, this is not true. For example, in an 8.3 ounce Red Bull there are 80 mg of caffeine, whereas a cup of coffee trails slightly behind, depending on the strength of the brew; coffee can range from 102-200 mg of caffeine. Ironically, one of the drinks highest in caffeine happens to be the smallest in size. A 5-hour Energy bottle containing only 1.93 ounces of liquid has 207 mg of caffeine.
Although this may sound surprising, caffeine is considered a drug, specifically in the category of a stimulant, and is the most widely consumed in the world. On average, 80 percent of Americans consume caffeine, in the form of coffee or tea, daily. When caffeine is ingested at a normal dosage (under 250 mg a day), the consumer will experience heightened alertness, lessening of fatigue, and stimulation of the brain. On the opposite end of the spectrum, when caffeine is used at an unhealthily high level, one may experience restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, tremors and even toxicity (which can cause death).
Large amounts of caffeine can cause problems because it targets the central nervous system directly and can lead to severe dehydration. The combination of these two effects can cause agitation and sleep problems, as well as long-term effects such as the development of anxiety issues.
If these beverages are consumed in moderation, they can be a useful tool, or a boost to get through a long day. However, if they are not, it can be a serious risk to the individual and their health. Caffeine is often relied on especially around campus by college students when trying to get through a long day of classes, a night of studying, or a research paper. What needs to be remembered is no matter how much of a boost you need, there is such a thing as too much caffeine.