“Caffeine is the most widely consumed drug in the world,” says Bruce Goldberger, Ph.D., a toxicologist at the University of Florida College of Medicine, who recently conducted a study that identified the high caffeine contents of energy drinks. “And it’s addictive,” he adds. While millions of people across the globe safely consume caffeine on a daily basis, Griffiths and Goldberger caution that it can cause health problems, especially in patients who suffer from anxiety or hypertensive disease. Caffeine can also present challenges to children who are extra sensitive to caffeine and cannot easily gauge their own reactions. For this reason, both scientists would like the Food and Drug Administration to require vendors to list the caffeine content on soft drinks.
The FDA has long suggested that soda makers limit caffeine to no more than 65 milligrams per 12-ounce serving. Yet energy drinks often have twice the amount of caffeine of a regular cola, Goldberger says (see box, above). A few brands do suggest a limit to the number of energy drinks any one person should consume in a day, and caution that pregnant women, children and people sensitive to caffeine should abstain.