News Background: Caffeine Workshop Part of Process, but Science on Caffeine Safety is Strong

Contact Info: 

Contact Matt Raymond or Jania Matthews at 202-296-6540 or media@foodinsight.org

News Background
Caffeine
                                                                                                      

August 2013

Caffeine Workshop Part of Process, but Science on Caffeine Safety is Strong
Consumption is Unchanged Despite New Caffeinated Products

In light of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) Workshop on “Potential Health Hazards Associated with Consumption of Caffeine in Food and Dietary Supplements” being held on August 5 and 6, 2013 the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation would like to offer its resources to reporters writing articles on the workshop, caffeine safety, and related topics.

Background:

Caffeine is one of the most studied ingredients, both as a natural and added component, in the food supply. Numerous studies have shown that moderate amounts of caffeine—about 300 milligrams (mg), or three cups of home-brewed coffee, per day—are safe for most people.

A recent study conducted for the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) looking at caffeine intake found that, despite claims to the contrary, individual caffeine consumption has not changed significantly in recent years and remains in the moderate range, at approximately 300 mg per person per day. In addition, major sources of caffeine still come from more traditional beverage sources such as coffee, soda, and tea, as opposed to energy drinks. In addition, teens consume about one-third the amount of caffeine as adults, or about 100 mg per day, and energy drinks contribute “only a small portion of caffeine consumed by teenagers.” (Somogyi, 2010)

PLACING THE IOM WORKSHOP IN CONTEXT:

It is a long-accepted fact that moderate amounts of caffeine in foods and beverages are safe for the general population, including pregnant women and children. However, recent developments such as the introduction of new products containing caffeine have raised the profile of caffeine in the public eye.

While this workshop is an important step in FDA’s efforts to address recent reports of alleged adverse effects of caffeine in foods and beverages, it places disproportionate emphasis on potential “adverse effects” of caffeine on its agenda, and virtually ignores research demonstrating benefits of caffeine for health such as improved mental alertness, cognitive health, and physical performance, as well as important potential benefits such as decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Parkinson’s Disease. The titles of the workshop’s panels themselves reinforce the impression that the deck is stacked, implying a myriad of health risks as articles of faith, yet giving only a passing reference to “potential benefits.”

In evaluating risk, it is important to weigh the true (vs. perceived) risks and benefits to make an informed decision. Leaving out evidence regarding the benefits of caffeine may lead to a lopsided view and conclusion regarding the true risk of consuming these foods and beverages.

The science on caffeine’s safety has been well-established. Questions regarding health outcomes such as cardiovascular health, “addiction,” and sensitive subpopulations have been adequately addressed through previous research, and moderate amounts of caffeine have not been found to pose safety or health concerns.

As with any food, moderation is key and it is important to be aware of how much caffeine we are consuming throughout the day from all sources including coffee, soda, energy drinks, medication, etc. Parents and teachers can play an important role in educating youth on safe and responsible caffeine consumption.

When added as an ingredient to foods and beverages, caffeine must be listed on the label, and many products voluntarily disclose the amount of caffeine per serving.  Caffeine consumption is
also self-limiting in that each individual may have a different amount of caffeine they are comfortable consuming.  Once they reach that level, they do not want to continue consuming more that day. Those wishing to limit or avoid caffeine can do so by reading the label for its presence and/or
visiting manufacturer websites for more information.

For more information, view our caffeine resources on www.FoodInsight.org:

The International Food Information Council Foundation is dedicated to the mission of effectively communicating science-based information on health, food safety and nutrition for the public good. The IFIC Foundation is supported primarily by the broad-based food, beverage and agricultural industries. Visit http://www.foodinsight.org 

EXPERTS:

The following experts are available to receive media inquiries for stories you may be writing on caffeine and health:

    Herbert “Skeet” Muncie, Jr., MD
    Professor of Family MedicineLouisiana State University
    Expertise:
    Caffeine and health, caffeine and “addiction”

      Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA
      Associate ProfessorDepartment of Pediatrics
      Albert Einstein College of Medicine
      Email: ktayoob@msn.com
      Expertise:
      Children’s health & nutrition