Not just the jitters! How much is too much caffeine

Photo: Getty.

Photo: Getty.

Question:

There was a story in the news recently about a high school senior prom king who died of a caffeine overdose. I drink a lot of coffee and Diet Coke every day. How much caffeine is too much? I certainly don’t want to end up dead over my caffeine addiction!

Answer:

I’m not a coffee man myself but I do get my caffeine fix by guzzling enormous amounts of black unsweetened tea (I keep an iced urn of it near my office) or bottles of Diet Coke (which I’ve written is a horrible habit). Many of my friends are caffeine fiends who like to start their mornings with a trenta-sized featured dark roast at the corner Starbucks. But as bad as many people’s caffeine habits are, you most likely won’t have to worry.

At issue in the news you read was the death of an 18 year old Ohio student who consumed too much caffeine powder. It lead to an irregular heartbeat and seizures before he collapsed dead, while at home on his lunch break from school.

People can purchase caffeine powder to be mixed in homemade drinks. However, critics of these products say that the average person does not know how to properly measure each serving, and does not know the deadly risks associated with caffeine. According to Emily Newman of WebMD, “For about $10, you can buy 100,000 mg of caffeine powder online. That’s more than 1,000 Red Bulls’ worth of caffeine in one package.”

Newman’s report (reviewed by physician Dr. Michael W. Smith, MD, for medical accuracy) says that a normal serving size is 1/16 of a teaspoon. One would need a miniature measuring spoon to get that precise serving size. “Simply mixing two regular spoonfuls of the powder into a drink is the same as drinking 70 Red Bulls at once, which could kill you.”

There are groups out there now working to get the federal government to better regulate caffeine powder as a matter of consumer safety. Until then, it’s best to just stay the Hell away from buying and using caffeine powder.

Apart from the caffeine powder issue, let’s talk about caffeine already in your favorite drinks!

There seems to be consensus among professionals that 600 mg is plenty of caffeine for a single day. Anything more, depending on your body and overall health, could result in complications. So our advice is to stick to 600 mg as your basic guideline.

Just as a matter of perspective, my 12 oz. can of Diet Coke sitting on my desk has 45 mg of caffeine. An 8.46 oz. of Red Bill has 80 mg. If you’re getting a grande-sized Starbucks coffee, you’ll be consuming 330 mg of caffeine.

As always, I must remind everyone that we at Chicago Phoenix recommend strongly that you see a medical professional for advice specific to your overall health and well-being.

About Gerald Farinas

An Edgewater Beach resident, Gerry is managing editor and interim editor-in-chief of Chicago Phoenix. He is concurrently a social services professional and media consultant. For more info: www.geraldfarinas.com.

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