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Caffeine Powder: Much Stronger And Dangerous Than What's In Coffee Or Soda

Center for Science in the Public Interest

In this edition of Vital Signs: caffeine. Rather than use the natural caffeine you get in food or drinks for stimulation, some instead mix in man-made caffeine powder for a bigger jolt.

Advertised as a dietary supplement, powdered caffeine’s dangerous if you’re not careful – enough for the FDA to issue warnings to companies that make it.

Dr. Mihaela Kruger, an interventional cardiologist at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, explains the health risks.

Highlights from Dr. Kruger’s interview:

How dangerous is powdered caffeine? “One single teaspoon of powdered caffeine can cause very toxic reaction. People can end up with arrhythmias, nausea, vomiting. A tablespoon of the same substance can lead to and has led to a couple of deaths. The actual dose that’s indicated, that this company that produced this product recommend to use is a 16th of a teaspoon. So I think it’s very easy, especially for young people, to maybe not pay enough attention to the directions and end up with very adverse reactions.”

Why there isn’t stronger FDA regulation of powdered caffeine? “Anything that is advertised as a dietary supplement does not have to go through the very tight regulatory process that the FDA has. The FDA can warn and can ask companies to stop producing, but to create a ban on a product that is not a ‘pharmaceutical’ per se, we’re just not there yet.”

Safer alternatives to using powdered caffeine when looking for an extra burst of energy:  “It’s hard to overdose on regular caffeine. One teaspoon of the powdered caffeine, if you were to use that, is equivalent to 28 cups of regular caffeine. Who drinks 28 cups of regular caffeine? I would say regular coffee. As much as I don’t like sodas and I would not recommend people to drink sodas, I’d rather they drink sodas than use the powdered caffeine. 5-Hour Energy, Red Bull, Monster drinks – I’m not advising to drink them, but if you were to choose between the powdered caffeine and these other energy drinks, I rather you drink a couple of those than use the powdered caffeine.  

For more information:

FDA Consumer Advice of Pure Powdered Caffeine

What You Don’t Know About Caffeine Powder

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.