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Energy Drinks and Caffeine continued...

Of the commercially available coffee drinks tested, Starbucks' Doubleshot had the most caffeine, with 105 milligrams per 6.5-ounce serving, while the coffee company's popular Frappuccino Mocha and Frappuccino Vanilla drinks had 72 milligrams and 74 milligrams of caffeine, respectively.

The caffeine content of energy drinks and commercial coffee beverages is not regulated by the FDA, and the amount of caffeine in most of these beverages tested in the study exceeded the maximum allowance for carbonated cola beverages.

Caffeine and Health

Excessive caffeine has been linked to medical complications ranging from interrupted sleep to headaches to women giving birth to smaller babies. Caffeine has also been linked to increasing heart rate and blood pressure, which poses a potential conflict to those with certain medical problems.

Dietitian Cynthia Sass, RD, says caffeine's effect on the body varies from person to person, and that is another reason why clear labeling is needed.

"Some people can have a really strong cup of coffee and go right to sleep and other people get that jittery, nervous, overstimulated feeling from the same amount of caffeine," she says.

Knowing how much caffeine is in a particular product could help people make better decisions about whether or not to consume it, she says.

She adds that just as with other stimulants, using caffeine to combat fatigue may make you feel better temporarily, but you pay for it later.

"When you are fatigued your body needs sleep and you aren't going to function well until you get it," she says. "Using a stimulant like caffeine is a temporary band-aid to the problem."

Labeling Caffeine Content

While the FDA requires commercial beverage manufacturers to list the presence of caffeine on their labels, it doesn't require them to list how much caffeine a product contains.

That should change, Goldberger says.

"We think these beverages should be clearly labeled with the caffeine content listed just as other nutrients are listed," he says.

Johns Hopkins professor of behavioral biology Roland Griffiths, PhD, agrees. Griffiths has been studying the effect of caffeine on the body for many years, and he says the stimulant is the most widely used mood-altering drug in the world.

Griffiths says energy drink consumers are being misled by advertising for the products.

"The ads give people the idea that they are getting a cocktail of various ingredients fine-tuned to synergistically enhance energy," he says. "As far as I can tell, this is bogus. The effects of these drinks are largely due to the presence of added caffeine, and the magnitude of the effect is completely caffeine-dose dependent."

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