How Caffeinated Are You?

Here in Portland, Oregon, people who don’t obsessively drink coffee are in the minority (and perhaps even frowned upon). We love our coffee, and perhaps related to this is our reliance on caffeine. But how much caffeine should one person consume on a daily basis? And when should caffeine consumption begin? Teenagers and young adults may not drink much coffee, but they do drink caffeinated sodas and the hugely popular energy drinks. Though marketed to provide energy, which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, energy drinks are generally loaded with caffeine–a lot of caffeine.

ASeptember 26, 2008, story in the Baltimore Sun reports on a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University on the caffeine content of these popular energy drinks. The study found that some of these drinks carry a potentially hazardous amount of caffeine, enough to cause such medical issues as anxiety, quickened pulse, irritability, and sleeplessness. The study calls for warning labels to be put on such drinks.

Because energy drinks are categorized as supplements, they enjoy different regulations than soft drinks. As such, energy drinks do not have to publicize their caffeine content, nor are they required to limit the amount of caffeine (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifies the maximum limit for caffeine in soft drinks) they carry.

Energy drink manufacturers argue that not all energy drinks are highly caffeinated or harmful to drinkers, and that it is unfair for researchers to generalize about the dangers of the drinks. In addition, they point out that many energy drinks have less caffeine than coffee, yet coffee carries no warning label. For example, a can of Red Bull (8.3 ounces) has 80 milligrams of caffeine, compared to a 12-ounce cup of coffee, which has some 200 milligrams of caffeine.