TIME Drugs

FDA Warns Against Powdered Caffeine

The agency issued a statement Friday recommending that consumers avoid the potent powders

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning Friday about the dangers of pure powdered caffeine after the death of a teenager in Ohio in May.

A mere teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine, the FDA said, is equivalent to 25 cups of coffee and can be lethal. “Pure caffeine is a powerful stimulant and very small amounts may cause accidental overdose. Parents should be aware that these products may be attractive to young people,” the agent noted. The substance can be easily purchased online.

Taking too much of the drug can result in heartbeat disruptions, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea and disorientation. “These symptoms are likely to be much more severe than those resulting from drinking too much coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages,” according to the statement.

The announcement comes almost two months after Logan Steiner, 18, of LeGrange, Ohio, died after overdosing on powdered caffeine on May 27.

TIME Caffeine

Prom King Died From Caffeine Powder Overdose

Logan Stiner, 18, died after ingesting a toxic amount of caffeine

Correction appended

The death of an Ohio high school senior just shy of his graduation has officially been attributed to a caffeine overdose.

On May 27, recently elected prom king Logan Stiner, 18, came home for lunch and ingested enough caffeine powder to cause an irregular heartbeat and seizures. His brother found him dead next to the white powder.

“I never thought it would hurt an 18-year-old child,” neighbor Lora Balka told WKYC.

Lorain County Coroner Steven Evans said Saturday that 1/16 a teaspoon of power has the caffeine equivalent of one can of Mountain Dew or a high-power energy drink. No one saw how much powder Stiner drank or knows where he got it from, but Evans said that it can be purchased online.

In October 2013, a British man died from a caffeine overdose after eating too many Hero Instant Energy Mints. Every mint contains the caffeine found in a can of Red Bull and the label advises taking no more than five in a 24-hour period. The coroner did not disclose how many pills John Jackson, 40, ingested.

“I am as certain as I can be that Mr. Jackson did not know he was exposing himself to danger,” said Coroner Robin Balmain, who vowed to write to the U.K.’s Department of Health regarding the potential dangers of high energy products.

In 2010, a 23-year-old man died in Nottingham, England after ingesting two spoonfuls of caffeine powder at a party with friends, which is the equivalent of 70 cans of Red Bull. The label warned to only take one-sixteenth of a teaspoon.

“Caffeine is so freely available on the internet,” coroner Nigel Chapman said, “but it’s so lethal if taken in the wrong dose and here we see the consequence.”

This article originally misstated how Lora Balka was related to the victim. She is a neighbor.

TIME Exercise

5 Reasons to Drink Coffee Before Your Workout

Coffee cup and pot
Tammy Lee Bradley—Getty Images/Moment Open

Half of Americans start their day with coffee, and according to recent study, working out after downing a cup of java may offer a weight loss advantage. The Spanish study, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, found that trained athletes who took in caffeine pre-exercise burned about 15% more calories for three hours post-exercise, compared to those who ingested a placebo. The dose that triggered the effect was 4.5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. For 150-pound woman (68 kg), that’s roughly 300 mg of caffeine, the amount in about 12 ounces of brewed coffee, a quantity you may already be sipping each morning.

If you’ve always thought of coffee as a vice—one you’re simply not willing to give up—you’ll be happy to know that it’s actually a secret superfood. And if you exercise, caffeine can offer even more functional benefits for your workouts. Here are five more reasons to enjoy it as part of an active lifestyle, along with five “rules” for getting your fix healthfully.

Health.com: 12 Surprising Sources of Caffeine

Improved circulation

Recent Japanese research studied the effects of coffee on circulation in people who were not regular coffee drinkers. Each participant drank a 5-ounce cup of either regular or decaffeinated coffee. Afterward, scientists gauged finger blood flow, a measure of how well the body’s smaller blood vessels work. Those who downed “regular” (caffeinated) coffee experienced a 30% increase in blood flow over a 75-minute period, compared to those who drank the “unleaded” (decaf) version. Better circulation, better workout—your muscles need oxygen!

Less pain

Scientists at the University of Illinois found that consuming the caffeine equivalent of two to three cups of coffee one hour before a 30-minute bout of high-intensity exercise reduced perceived muscle pain. The conclusion: caffeine may help you push just a little bit harder during strength-training workouts, resulting in better improvements in muscle strength and/or endurance.

Health.com: 15 Natural Back Pain Remedies

Better memory

A study published this year from Johns Hopkins University found that caffeine enhances memory up to 24 hours after it’s consumed. Researchers gave people who did not regularly consume caffeine either a placebo, or 200 mg of caffeine five minutes after studying a series of images. The next day, both groups were asked to remember the images, and the caffeinated group scored significantly better. This brain boost may be a real boon during workouts, especially when they entail needing to recall specific exercises or routines.

Muscle preservation

In an animal study, sports scientists at Coventry University found that caffeine helped offset the loss of muscle strength that occurs with aging. The protective effects were seen in both the diaphragm, the primary muscle used for breathing, as well as skeletal muscle. The results indicate that in moderation, caffeine may help preserve overall fitness and reduce the risk of age-related injuries.

Health.com: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

More muscle fuel

A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that a little caffeine post-exercise may also be beneficial, particularly for endurance athletes who perform day after day. The research found that compared to consuming carbohydrates alone, a caffeine/carb combo resulted in a 66% increase in muscle glycogen four hours after intense, glycogen-depleting exercise. Glycogen, the form of carbohydrate that gets stockpiled in muscle, serves as a vital energy “piggy bank” during exercise, to power strength moves, and fuel endurance. Packing a greater reserve means that the very next time you work out, you’ve upped your ability to exercise harder and/or longer.

But this news doesn’t mean you should down as much coffee as possible—your good intentions may backfire. In my work with athletes, I recommend five basic rules to best reap caffeine’s rewards:

  • Don’t overdo it. The maximum amount of caffeine recommended for enhancing performance with minimal side effects is up to 6 mg per kg body weight, which is about 400 mg per day (or about 16 ounces of coffee) for a 150-pound woman.
  • Incorporate it in healthy ways: doctor up coffee with almond milk and cinnamon instead of cream and sugar, or whip coffee or tea into a fruit smoothie, along with other nutrient-rich ingredients like almond butter and oats or quinoa.

Health.com: 11 Ways to Boost Your Energy With Food

  • Be consistent with your intake. Research shows that when your caffeine intake is steady, your body adjusts, which counters dehydration, even though caffeine is a natural diuretic. In other words, don’t reach for two cups one day and four the next.
  • Keep drinking good old H2O your main beverage of choice.
  • Nix caffeine at least six hours before bed to prevent sleep interference, and listen to your body. If you’re relying on caffeine as an energy booster because you’re tired, get to the root of what’s causing fatigue. Perhaps it’s too little sleep, overexercising, or an inadequate diet. If something’s off kilter, you won’t see progress, and you’ll likely get weaker rather than stronger. Striving for balance is always key!

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.


Boys and Girls Are Impacted By Caffeine Differently

New research shows even low doses of caffeine impact kids, and bodies of boys and girls react differently

Boys and girls’ bodies react differently to caffeine after they hit puberty, new research shows.

It’s established that caffeine consumption can increase blood pressure and lower heart rate in adults, and researchers from University at Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, have shown in the past that the same side effects happen in kids. This new research, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that the different ways caffeine affects males and females starts at puberty, with boys’ hearts more affected than girls’.

The researchers are unsure why exactly there are reaction differences—it could be due to hormones or other physiological factors—but it’s concerning since doses were low, at 1 and 2 mg/kg, and since caffeinated energy drinks are popular among kids and teens.

Last year, the FDA announced it was starting to look into the safety of added caffeine in products for youth and adolescents. The announcement was made just as gum-maker Wrigley had introduced its newest product, Alert Energy Gum, which it then pulled from market. When it comes to products like 5-hour Energy and Monster energy drinks, the FDA has reported hospitalizations from the products and reported that energy drinks were cited in at least 13 teen deaths. Reports do not necessarily mean energy beverages caused illness or death, but the correlation was worrying.

Currently, the FDA does not require the amount of caffeine in a product to be included on food labels. Since the FDA says caffeine is a natural chemical found in items like tea leaves and coffee beans, it’s regulated as an ingredient not a drug. Energy drinks are not regulated because they are sold as dietary supplements. A 2012 Consumer Reports review of 27 best-selling energy drinks found that 11 do not list caffeine content. Among those that do, the tested amount was on average 20% higher than what was on the label.

The FDA says 400 milligrams a day, about four or five cups of coffee, is generally not considered dangerous for adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages caffeine consumption among young kids and adolescents.

The latest study did have weaknesses, since its study group was primarily among white, middle class, and well educated, and they could not completely confirm that control groups were totally abstinent when it came to consuming caffeine. Still, the research is important as medical and governmental groups take a closer look at how the stimulant may be impacting children’s health.

TIME Space Exploration

The International Space Station Is Getting an Espresso Machine

The lattes will be out of this world

The International Space Station is 240 miles above earth, but that doesn’t mean astronauts don’t have a hard time getting up in the morning — after all, they can make a run to the stars, but not a run to the Starbucks.

But the ISS is about to get a little caffeinated pep in its one-small-step-for-man, in the form of ISSpresso, its very own, customized espresso machine. Italian coffee brand Lavazza teamed up with aerospace engineering company Argotec to design the device, which will be the first machine designed to withstand travel when it arrives at the space station later this year as a part of the Italian Space Agency’s Futura Mission.

When it connects, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti won’t just become the first Italian woman in space — she’ll likely be the first person in space to sip an Italian espresso.

TIME Science

This Is How Caffeine Actually Affects Your Brain 

The science behind America's favorite drug


Over 83 percent of Americans drink coffee, making the U.S. the world’s largest consumer of the potent beans. We probably love it so much because it’s also our favorite drug—caffeine keeps us going (even in today’s strangely wintry weather). But only a fraction of addicts actually understand how caffeine impacts the brain. Here’s a video that explains the addiction.

The Reactions video explores the chemistry of caffeine, which breaks up into three different molecules: theobromine, paraxanthine, and theophylline. The combined impact of these three compounds induces the wakeful state we all need to start our mornings.

TIME health

7 Surprising Facts About Caffeine

Starbucks Stores Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Brent Lewin—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Most of us have an intimate relationship with caffeine. We crave it, love it, and take it every day in coffee, tea and sodas. It feels quite familiar. But as I researched my book Caffeinated, I quickly learned that America’s favorite drug held surprises at every turn. Here are seven of them:

1) Coke used to have as much caffeine as Red Bull: For starters, consider energy drinks. Red Bull, Rockstar, Monster and other syrupy sweet, caffeinated drinks are suddenly everywhere. But there is really nothing new about them. As I read through the court papers from a 1911 trial pitting the federal government against Coca-Cola over the caffeine it blended into its products, I was surprised to learn that the early formulation for Coke was far more caffeinated than it is today. An eight-ounce serving had 80 milligrams of caffeine. This is the exact size and caffeine content of a modern Red Bull. Put another way, Coca-Cola pioneered the energy drink concept more than a century ago. The first Red Bull was a Coke.

2) Energy drinks still don’t have as much caffeine as Starbucks coffee: And then I ran into another popular misconception — the idea that these new energy drinks are super-caffeinated. Yes, they pack more of a caffeine punch than colas or teas, but rarely as much as coffee. It is hard to buy a coffee at Starbucks with less caffeine than a Red Bull (perhaps a single shot of espresso, or a mere four ounces of coffee). Even the popular 16-ounce Monsters and Rockstars — they supersize the Red Bull concept, doubling the size and the caffeine content — typically have about 160 milligrams of caffeine. That’s half the amount Starbucks estimates for a drip-brewed grandé.

3) We drink less coffee today, per person, than we did in the 1950s: So yes, we are drinking more energy drinks these days, but coffee culture still rules, right? We’ve got a Starbucks on every corner, it seems, and sometimes two, so we must be sipping more joe than ever. But here’s the weird thing — we drink less coffee than we did in 1950, a lot less. American coffee consumption peaked shortly after World War II, and then plummeted. Meanwhile, soft drinks became Americans’ favorite caffeinated beverages.

4) Nonetheless, coffee still accounts for most of our caffeine intake: But even as we chug more gallons of caffeinated sodas than coffee, we get more of our caffeine from coffee. Because the caffeine is more concentrated in coffee, it still provides two-thirds of the caffeine in our diet. Soft drinks come in second, and tea is in third place.

5) Most tea today is iced: And what about that tea, anyway? Again, it’s the source of a lot of misunderstanding. We typically think of tea as something prepared in a cup, with hot water poured over a tea bag, and sipped hot. But that is an archaic notion. So here’s another little-known fact — iced tea now accounts for 85 percent of the tea consumed in the US. This includes not just the sweet tea that lubricates southern living, but also the fast-growing bottled teas, ranging from Brisk and Nestea to the upscale Honest Tea and Tazo brands.

6) It doesn’t take much to get hooked: Even as our preferences have shifted toward bottled sodas and teas, with their lower caffeine concentrations, research has shown that it does not take much caffeine to develop dependence. And here is another caffeinated surprise — as little as 100 milligrams of caffeine daily is enough to get an adult hooked. That’s about five to eight ounces of coffee, two bags of Lipton tea, or three cans of Coke. At this level of caffeine consumption, most people will experience some symptoms of caffeine withdrawal if they quit abruptly. Symptoms can include lethargy, no surprise, but also irritability and, especially, the classic caffeine withdrawal headache.

7) Caffeine is now being marketed as a hangover cure: Though caffeine can actually trigger headaches in some people, for most of us it is an effective headache therapy. It is bundled into a number of prescription migraine medications, and is a key ingredient in over-the-counter analgesics like Excedrin and Anacin. That’s not too surprising. What is surprising that it is now being marketed specifically to treat a dreaded malady — the hangover headache. For younger hangover sufferers, there are energy drinks like Monster Rehab and Rockstar Recovery, delivering a bit of morning-after caffeine. And Hangover Joe’s takes the basic energy shot formula and packages it for the over-served. Anacin is capitalizing on this with its trademarked slogan: “Great night. Rough morning. Better day.” A century ago, Coca-Cola’s ads read “Tired? Coca-Cola relieves fatigue.” The newer pitches for hangover remedies, like Anacin’s “Got Sharpied?” campaign, suggest caffeine is once again being viewed as a useful tonic.

However it is marketed, we, the coffee-chugging, soda-swilling, caffeine-addicted American public, are delighted to buy all of it, to feed our habit and treat our ills.

Murray Carpenter is the author of Caffeinated, How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts and Hooks Us, recently published by Hudson Street Press.

TIME Technologizer

Attention Caffeine Addicts: Jawbone’s Up Coffee App Is for You

Up Coffee

Log your jitter-inducing refreshments on your iPhone.

Jawbone’s Up and Up 24 fitness bands let you track a bevy of factors relating to your well being, from the number of steps you take each day to how well you sleep. Today, the company is announcing a second Up app for the iPhone. Developed by Jawbone Labs — an enterprise that lets Jawbone employees get experimental with personal projects — the new software is free and doesn’t require an Up wristband. And it’s designed to help you do one thing: monitor your caffeine intake.

Though its name is Up Coffee, the app tracks caffeinated beverages of all sorts, including tea, cola and energy drinks. With a few taps, you can enter the specific liquid you intend to quaff, such as a Diet Coke of a certain size or a particular Dunkin Donuts coffee drink. As you do, Up Coffee visualizes the increasing quantity of caffeine’s effect on your system as a collection of little balls jumping around a beaker, with ratings such as “Edgy,” “Wired” and “Sleep Ready.”

Or maybe you’ll cut back at least a little on your self-caffeination if you faithfully use Up Coffee: If it thinks you’re overdoing it, it’ll tactfully ask you if you’re positive you want to have that extra cup. Or two or three.

For people who do own an Up or Up 24, Up Coffee works in concert with the main Up app, which uses the data Up Coffee collects to tell you how much sleep each 100mg of caffeine is going to cost you, on average.

's Up 24 wristband
Jawbone’s Up 24 wristband Jawbone

The primary Up app is getting updated to version 3.1, for iOS at first, with an Android edition in the works. The new version adds features for tracking what Jawbone calls “sound sleep” — a non-technical term for the time you spend in truly restful repose rather than moving about. It adds more personalized stats drawn from the data it gathers about you: It might note, for instance, that you step 800 more times per day for every 30 minutes earlier you go to bed. And rather than just letting you set a daily vibrating “silent alarm” to help you wake up, it allows you to create up to four vibrating reminders per day to nudge you to do stuff such as go to the gym or take medication.

As part of its celebration of National Sleep Awareness Week, which is going on now, Jawbone is sharing factoids based on aggregate stats from its users and survey results. For example, Up users who said they had a laptop in their bedroom, for instance, got 38 fewer minutes of sound sleep per night; those who slept with a phone got 13 fewer minutes. If you saw the collection of gadgets on my dresser, you’d understand why I have the horrible feeling that those two stats, cumulatively, mean that I’m sleeping at least 51 fewer minutes a night than I should.

TIME Food & Drink

Among Kids, Soda Is Out, Energy and Coffee Drinks Are All the Buzz

Study of caffeine intake for people age 2 to 22 reveals new trends

Kids are drinking less soda, but more coffee and energy drinks, according to a recent study.

In research published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers looked at trends in caffeine intake among people ages 2 to 22 between 1999 to 2010. They found that in 1999, 62 percent of kids and young adults got most of their caffeine from soda. But in 2010, that number dropped significantly to 38 percent.

Energy drinks were not a factor at the beginning of the study, but between 2009 to 2010, they rose to 6 percent of caffeine intake among young people. Coffee also made a jump, from 10 percent of caffeine intake in 1999-2000 to about 24 percent in 2009-2010.

Overall during the time period, researchers found that 73 percent of young people consumed some caffeine on a given day. Even more startling was the fact that 63 percent of kids aged between 2 and 5 consumed caffeine.

The researchers speculated that increased awareness over the link between soda and obesity could be one of the reasons fewer young people are guzzling sodas. But any increase in energy drink consumption among youth is concerning, given that high levels of caffeine can have a greater impact on smaller bodies. The American Academy of Pediatrics says energy drinks “should never be consumed by children or adolescents.”

Caffeine in moderation is considered safe by the FDA, among adults at least. The agency says 400 milligrams a day or about four to five cups of coffee is not considered dangerous for an adult, but the FDA has no recommendations for kids. Last May the agency announced that it is taking a closer look at the safety of caffeinated products for kids and adolescents. The investigation is still under way.

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