Scientists Aim to Clarify Reports on Caffeine

While Kingston shared the inconsistencies of emergency room visit data, Richard Adamson, PhD, the president of TPN Associates, LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in toxicology, pharmacology and nutrition issues, also participated in the webcast and aimed to debunk claims that connect caffeine to various diseases.

Adamson said that clinical studies have shown that single doses of caffeine, generally fewer than 400 milligrams, do not increase the frequency of cardiac arrhythmias in healthy people or in patients with ischaemic heart disease or serious ventricular ectopia. He also said that epidemiological studies don’t support any relationship with caffeine use and hypertension.

Some researchers argue that Monster Energy and other energy drinks receive undeserved accusations.

Both Kingston and Adamson spent time explaining why energy drinks may not deserve all the blame they receive, and James R. Couglin, president of Coughlin & Associates, a consultant in food, nutritional and chemical toxicology and safety, explained some of the benefits of caffeine, both widely known and lesser appreciated. He said that scientists now have “very reassuring evidence” that caffeine isn’t addictive. He also shared insight not commonly affiliated with caffeine.

“Caffeine actually might be producing a higher metabolic rate and it might have some benefit in having a fat-burning effect,” Coughlin said.

Caffeine has also shown in studies that it can serve as a stimulant to improve cognitive performance and mental processing, increase the capacity for work and exercise, relax muscles (which could be especially useful for bronchial patients), open airwaves and increase blood flow in the heart and kidneys. Certain studies have also shown that caffeine can reduce the risks of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and decrease the rates of depression and suicide.

He also noted that for those pointing their finger at energy drinks alone, one would be wise to consider the proportions of caffeine intake. Coughlin said that 96 percent of caffeine ingested in the U.S. derives from coffee, tea and soft drinks.

“The bottom line here is that energy drinks make up only a small portion of the total caffeine that is taken in by U.S. consumers,” he said.

The webcast followed a spate of similar efforts to clarify the role, effects and perception of energy drinks. At the end of July, in response to various attacks against energy drink companies, a group of U.S. senators entreated energy drink companies to stop marketing to young people. On Aug. 5 and 6, the Institute of Medicine hosted an aforementioned workshop on the potential health hazards associated with caffeine in food and dietary supplements, including energy drinks. On Aug. 15 and 16, a group of scientists who study caffeine met at the Neuroscience Center Building in Rockville, Md., to discuss the current knowledge and critical gaps regarding energy drinks.