The sudden death of an Ohio teen due to caffeine overdose in May highlighted the potential dangers of the normally well-tolerated and mass-consumed substance.
To help prevent serious health problems that can arise from consuming too much caffeine, scientists are reporting progress toward a rapid, at-home test to detect even low levels of the stimulant in most beverages and even breast milk. Their report appears in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Mani Subramanian and colleagues note that caffeine's popularity as a "pick-me-up" has led to it being added to more than 570 beverages and 150 food products, including gums and jelly beans. It also comes in a pure powder form that consumers can use themselves to spike drinks and food. In small amounts, most people can handle caffeine without a problem. But excessive doses can lead to serious health problems, including insomnia, hallucinations, vitamin deficiency, several types of cancer and in rare cases, death. Subramanian's team wanted to develop a quick and easy way for consumers to determine whether the caffeine levels in their foods and drinks fall within a safe range.