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How Caffeine Can Kill You

An Ohio teen's death is just the latest caffeine overdose this year.

file photo
file photo
By Brian Slupski

There have been 18 caffeine overdose deaths reported this year. The most recent involved a healthy Ohio high school senior who dropped dead of cardiac arrest just before prom.

Logan Stiner, 18, had a lethal amount of caffeine in his system, The Chronicle-Telegram reported. Stiner reportedly had bags of powdered, pure caffeine in his home.

The coroner, Stephen Evans, said that Stiner had 70 micrograms of caffeine per mililiter of blood in his system. The typical energy drink contains three to 15 micrograms.

"He was a young, healthy guy. People don’t realize (caffeine) could potentially kill you,” Evans told the Chronicle-Telegram.

Caffeine, whether in powder form, or concentrated in "energy" drinks, has raised concerns among some consumer advocate groups.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has asked that the Food and Drug Administration force energy drinks to include warning labels. The group said 17 deaths have been linked to the drinks since October 2012.

"I don't think anybody knows what (these chemicals in energy drinks) do," Reuters quoted Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, which calculated the numbers using data it obtained from the FDA. "It's not clear what their risks are."

Food Safety News reported that about 80 percent of Americans consume some caffeine every day. Most average adults take in about 200 mg a day. People tend to start showing caffeine toxicity symptoms at 400 mg. A tall Starbucks coffee contains about 260 mg while a 32-oz Monster energy drink has about 320 mg.

In June, 16-year-old Lanna Hamann of Peoria, Arizona was vacationing with friends in Mexico when she went into cardiac arrest. Hamann's  friends told Fox 6 she had been drinking energy drinks on the beach and not consuming much water during the day.

“(Parents should) make sure they’re watching their kids. (Watch) what they’re drinking and (make sure) they’re drinking water instead of an energy drink,” her mother, Kris Hamann told the TV station.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest points to 34 deaths in the last decade that occurred after people consumed energy drinks. According to Food Safety News, 22 deaths were linked to 5-Hour Energy, 11 to Monster and one to Rockstar.

However, since no study has proven the drinks actually caused the deaths, Food Safety News reported that the FDA is continuing to investigate the matter. As for powdered caffeine, it is considered a dietary supplement and is therefore not regulated by the FDA.

The Mayo Clinic notes that up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day appears safe. On its website it states that's about "four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two 'energy shot' drinks."

However, for children and adolescents, caffeine consumption should not exceed 100 mg a day. And it notes that different people have different sensitivity levels to caffeine.

Who's responsible for making sure caffeinated products are safe and have proper warning labels? Does the government need to do a better job regulating them? What do you think?
usmcboi July 05, 2014 at 05:03 PM
Caffeine is plant based idiot.
toby d July 07, 2014 at 06:07 AM
So is coke and heroine
Elizabeth July 07, 2014 at 10:51 AM
Using a cup of coffee on an article about energy drinks and powdered caffeine is misleading. Yes, coffee has caffeine but nothing near what energy drinks have.
yourusmcboyelvises July 07, 2014 at 03:42 PM
coke the drink? and heroin is used as a medicine in various applications so sure its natural.
yourusmcboyelvises July 07, 2014 at 03:43 PM
though I think both has various additives in it coffee is a ground up bean.

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