Caffeine Shockers: Products Surprisingly High in Caffeine

What's the caffeine content in your favorite energy drink, tea, or soda?

From the WebMD Archives

Everyone knows you can find plenty of caffeine in regular coffee (80-150 milligrams in a 6-ounce cup of brewed coffee). But you might be surprised to find as much (or more) caffeine in energy drinks, sodas -- even gum and ice cream.

Coffee-flavored frozen yogurt and ice cream is also suspect, with anywhere from 45 to 85 milligrams of caffeine per cup, depending on the brand. Even some medications have caffeine: 56-120 milligrams for a standard dose of over-the-counter pain relievers, and up to 200 milligrams in weight control aids like Dexatrim.

But when I headed to the supermarket to look for products with surprisingly high caffeine content, the real shock to me was that so many energy and coffee drinks don't clearly list their caffeine content on their packaging. Some had it listed on the can, but you almost needed a magnifying glass to find it. Others, like Starbucks Double Shot products, didn't seem to have the information on their packaging at all.

"The caffeine content of energy drinks varies over a tenfold range, with some containing the equivalent of 14 cans of Coca-Cola, yet the caffeine amounts are often unlabeled and few include warnings about the potential health risks of caffeine intoxication," says Roland Griffiths, PhD, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins University.

Given what some companies are claiming about caffeine, you might think it's super healthy. The company that makes Red Bull, for example, asserts that the caffeine in the energy drink acts with other key ingredients to deliver benefits like increased endurance, increased concentration, and improved reaction speed, as well as a stimulated metabolism.

But you'll also find warnings on several of these caffeine-laden drinks. Spike Shooter cans bear this message: "Do not use if you are under the age of 16 or elderly." And the label of Monster Energy drinks specifies "Limit 3 cans per day -- Not recommended for children, pregnant women or people sensitive to caffeine."

While scientists are continuing to discover all the health benefits and detriments of caffeine, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognizes caffeine intoxication as a clinical syndrome.

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According to the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, some people can experience caffeine intoxication symptoms -- including restlessness, nervousness, excitement, insomnia, flushed face, and gastrointestinal complaints -- after ingesting as little as 100 milligrams of caffeine per day. At levels of 1,000 milligrams of caffeine per day, symptoms may include muscle twitching, rapid heartbeats, abnormal electrical activity in the heart, and psychomotor agitation.

Start reading the labels of some of these products, and there are bound to be a few shockers for you. The following is not a complete list of products containing caffeine, but it includes many you would find in a typical supermarket.

Products with over 300 milligrams of caffeine per serving:

Product (serving size) Caffeine (milligrams)

Spike Shooter (8.4-oz. can) 300

All City NRG (16 oz.) 300

NOS High Performance Energy Drink (22 oz.) 357

Products with over 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving:

Product (serving size) Caffeine (milligrams)

Arizona Green Tea Energy (16 oz.) 200

Rockstar Roasted Coffee & Energy (15 oz.) 225

Rockstar Zero Carb (16 oz.) 240

Jolt Energy (23.5 oz) 280

Products with over 140 milligrams of caffeine per serving:

Product (serving size) Caffeine (milligrams)

Full Throttle (16 oz.) 144

Starbucks Double Shot Energy & Coffee (15 oz.) 146

Go Girl Sugar Free Energy Drink (12 oz.) 150

Java Monster coffee and energy drink (15 oz.) 160

Rockstar Juiced Pomegranate (16 oz.) 160

Rockstar Juiced Energy & Guava (16 oz.) 160

Monster Energy (16 oz.) 160

Other products that have more caffeine than you might expect:

Product (serving) Caffeine (milligrams)

Jolt Caffeine Energy Gum (2 pieces) 26

Propel Invigorating Water (20 oz.) 50

Naked Juice Energy 100% Juice Smoothie (15.2 oz.) 82

Enviga Sparkling Green Tea (12 oz.) 100

Crystal Light Energy (16 oz.) 120

Sodas with caffeine:

Product (serving) Caffeine (milligrams)

Jolt Cola (12 oz.) 100

Diet Pepsi Max (12 oz.) 69

Vault Citrus Hybrid Energy Soda (12 oz.) 69

Mountain Dew (12 oz.) 54

Pepsi (12 oz.) 38

Diet Coke Plus with vitamins and minerals (12 oz.) 34

(If you are wondering why Red Bull Energy Drink isn't in any of the charts above, it's because it has 80 milligrams in an 8.4-ounce can, which wasn't half as shocking as the caffeine totals in some other energy drinks on the market.)

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Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

WebMD Expert Column

Sources

SOURCES:

Roland Griffiths, PhD, professor of behavior biology, department of neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University.

News release, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Sept. 24, 2008.

Reissig, C.J.; Strain, E.C.; Griffiths, R.R.; Drug and Alcohol Dependence, September 2008. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Product labels and web sites, March 2009.

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