The Dangers Of Consuming Concentrated Caffeine


powdered caffeine supplement

          The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently issued a new guidance regarding pure or highly concentrated caffeine. According to the FDA, highly concentrated pure caffeine pose unreasonable risks of illness. The FDA’s new issuance came after a student was reported to have died of caffeine overdose.

          The government agency stated that when these products are sold in bulk, consumers may use them inappropriately and end up consuming the product in amounts much greater than the recommended serving size. Moreover, consumers may also mix concentrated caffeine with other caffeine-containing food or beverages which further increases their dosage intake.

          Aside from caffeine overdose, consuming concentrated coffee in large amounts also present other health risks. Take a look at how consuming concentrated caffeine presents risks to your health.

Caffeine In Coffee vs. Powdered Caffeine

          Coffee lovers need not panic because of the FDA’s new issuance. The caffeine you find in coffee is actually different from the caffeine found in powdered caffeine sold as dietary supplements online or in retail channels.

          Depending on how much ground coffee and the coffee blend you use, as well as the brewing technique, you can get anywhere from around 60 to 270 milligrams of caffeine per 8 fl. oz. or 236 ml of coffee, which is equivalent to a cup of the aromatic brew. Using a French press or plunger will give you around 100 mg of caffeine while drip coffee will give you around 145 mg of caffeine. In general, the longer the ground coffee is in contact with water, the more caffeine you will get from your brew.

          Powdered or pure caffeine, on the other hand, is referred to as anhydrous caffeine. The first difference you’ll notice between caffeine in coffee and anhydrous caffeine is the appearance. Anhydrous caffeine is usually in powder form, and although it also tastes bitter, it has no odor and does not produce the same aroma that we usually associate with brewed coffee.

coffee grounds and beans on table          The other difference between the two is the water content. Anhydrous caffeine only contains 0.5% water, which is why it’s called anhydrous. The third and most important difference between caffeine in coffee and anhydrous caffeine is the dosage of intake.

          Scientific studies say that drinking up to four cups of brewed coffee a day is quite safe. However, with anhydrous caffeine, you don’t measure your intake in terms of cups, rather, you measure it in terms of milligrams. Because it’s in concentrated form, you definitely need to use only a small amount of powdered caffeine.

Inadvertent Powdered Caffeine Overdose

          When you search online for powdered or pure caffeine, you’ll find that the products vary in terms of recommended serving size. For instance, one product has a recommended serving size of one-sixteenth (1/16) of a teaspoon while another product recommends 1/20 of a teaspoon. Another product recommends a serving size of 50 milligrams which also contains 50 mg of caffeine anhydrous.

          One thing that’s problematic about these powdered pure caffeine (caffeine anhydrous) products that can easily be bought online is that it’s simply difficult for regular consumers to measure out the exact recommended serving size.

          Picture yourself at six in the morning trying to prepare your breakfast smoothie and you’re thinking of adding powdered caffeine to your drink. How would you measure 1/16 or 1/20 of a teaspoon in such a situation? It would be easy to give yourself a caffeine overdose if you don’t have the right tools to accurately measure how much powdered caffeine you put in your drink. It’s a different thing if it’s in capsule or tablet form because you can easily count how many you’re supposed to take. And anyway, pure caffeine in capsule form will also have a serving size of just one capsule.

          This is the basically the primary reason why consumers accidentally overdose on powdered pure caffeine. Did you know that if you mix a teaspoon of anhydrous caffeine into your smoothie, you’re basically drinking the equivalent of 50 to 70 cups of brewed coffee? Even if you’re a certified coffee addict, drinking that much coffee in a day will surely cause a lot of problems for your heart and blood pressure.

Caffeine Overdose Reports

          One study reviewed incidents of powdered caffeine exposures reported to US poison centers from January 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015. Over the 30-month period, a total of forty calls were made to report exposure to powdered caffeine.

          Of the forty calls, 21 calls were made to report accidental overdose of powdered caffeine. The reported reason why these 21 patients overdosed is the lack of proper dosing information that is supposed to be printed on the product packaging.

woman having chest pain due to caffeine overdose          In short, these patients consumed concentrated powdered caffeine without knowing for sure just how much they’re supposed to take because the product they bought did not divulge that information in the packaging. Thus, they ended up consuming so much more than the recommended serving size which resulted in an overdose.

          The study summarized the various symptoms that were exhibited by the caffeine overdose patients. Nausea or vomiting was the most common symptom, experienced by 17 out of 40 patients. Eleven patients reported feeling anxious or hyperactive, while 9 patients reported palpitations. Four patients also experienced chest pain due to the overdose.

          The most common sign of overdose was tachycardia, a condition characterized by an abnormally fast resting heart rate. Of the eleven patients that had tachycardia, their heart beat rates reached 100-200 beats per minute. The normal rate for adults is just around sixty to 100 beats per minute when at rest. Four patients had hypertension, while three patients showed arrhythmia, which means that the rhythm of their heartbeats was irregular.

FDA Guidance

          The recently issued FDA guidance applies to concentrated caffeine sold in bulk either in liquid or powdered form. However, concentrated caffeine products that are already pre-measured such as in packet, tablet, or capsule form, are not included in the ban. Products containing caffeine like energy drinks or over-the-counter drugs or supplements are also excluded from the ban.