The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Eating Caffeine: An Alternative Source

Eating Caffeine: An Alternative Source

The Food Journal

April 29, 2014

What’s new for caffeine?

Wired Waffles have 200mg of caffeine and use an all natural green coffee extract that goes right into the ingredients before baking. They started with the synthetic stuff and then realized the natural was the same cost. Wired Wyatt’s founder Roger Sullivan believes that “caffeine for foods is a natural progression and an inevitability.” While the waffle pricing is a bit high (2.50 a waffle versus 25 to 50 cents a waffle on supermarket average), Sullivan makes a good point: “It’s a functional food equivalent to a Starbucks cup of coffee and a muffin but putting the two into one… so it’s very value priced.” 

Awake Caffeinated Chocolate bars are another functional product on the market, with each bar containing 101 milligrams of caffeine listed as a medicinal ingredient. 

An alternative to just adding caffeine is to add guarana. Guarana is a substance prepared from the seeds of a Brazilian shrub and is rich in caffeine. Guarana was introduced here in the U.S. in the early 1990’s as an ingredient in the ill-fated Josta Cola from Pepsi. (Probably ahead of its time as the guarana brand soda still ranks number one in Brazil and is a best seller in other countries around the world including Japan.) Energy Gummi bears have 32 milligrams of natural caffeine per serving from guarana extract. This product also contains co-enzyme Q-10 and taurine (an amino acid that supports neurological development). Perky Jerky, a lean nitrate-free protein snack, is marinated in guarana. We expect more guarana-based foods and snacks to be introduced to the supermarket shelves as well.

Low levels of caffeine from green tea extract are appearing in products such as two types of Clif Energy bars - Cool Mint Chocolate and Peanut Toffee Buzz - which contain 50 mg of caffeine. A cup of green tea itself only contains a range of 10-50 milligrams of caffeine.  

What about the kids?

In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics did the study Trends in Caffeine Intake Among US Children and Adolescents with the results that, “Approximately 73% of children consumed caffeine on a given day. From 1999 to 2010, there were no significant trends in mean caffeine intake overall; however, caffeine intake decreased among 2- to 11-year-olds and Mexican-American children." In response, the American Beverage Association issued a statement about this study in February 2014 stating, This study shows that children and adolescents consume less caffeine than they have in previous years. In fact, the most recent data demonstrates virtually no caffeine consumption from energy drinks among children under 12 and extremely low consumption for adolescents aged 12 to 18. Furthermore, findings from this study reaffirm that over all, consumption of caffeine from soft drinks by this group also has decreased.”

Is caffeine bad for you?

Dr. James Coughlin, Ph.D., CFS, an authority on caffeine for thirty-three years, is convinced of the safety of caffeine. Coughlin says coffee drinkers have a lower risk of suicide and depression. “Harvard University has published studies on both depression and suicide risk and coffee consumption. It’s the people that are not drinking coffee that seem to have higher risks. People are consuming caffeine-containing beverages for the pick me up, and there are well-known positive cognitive behavioral effects of caffeine.” READ FULL INTERVIEW WITH DR. JAMES R. COUGHLIN

“Humans have been consuming coffee for many hundreds of years. We know a lot about caffeine. Males, females, pregnant women, adolescents… we have studied all the groups quite a bit,” says Dr. Sean O’Keefe, Department of Food Science and Technology, Virginia Tech. “The question is more about the outliers; the person that consumes much more than average, like ten cups of coffee or several of the very high caffeine energy drinks per day.” READ FULL INTERVIEW WITH DR. SEAN O'KEEFE

After a decade of study for the newly published DSM 5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), a caffeine subcommittee determined caffeine not to be “addictive” or a Substance Use Disorder. “However, the APA did recognize as a disorder caffeine withdrawal symptoms from where 20-50% of people studied do sometimes get headaches when they stop taking caffeine,” says Coughlin. 

FDA Regulations on Caffeine:

In an FDA web site Q&A, Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Mike Taylor stated, "We need to better understand caffeine consumption and use patterns and determine what is a safe level for total consumption of caffeine." The FDA realizes that their caffeine regulations are outdated and have not kept up with new uses. Caffeine has been GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) since colas in the 1950’s. Currently in the US, any food product that contains added caffeine must list caffeine as an ingredient, but the actual quantity of caffeine does not have to be stated on the label. The FDA contracted with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in August 2013 to conduct a public workshop on other food products that contain caffeine (Caffeine in Food and Dietary Supplements: Examining Safety). The FDA will be examining the findings.  

What guidelines or regulations should be made about the amount of caffeine that can be allowed in any particular food, and how will the industry work together to keep it out of the grasp of children? With recent caffeine studies, the FDA continues to debate its position; while caffeinated food products continue to emerge on the marketplace without regulation.