When Food Products Try to Be Energy Drinks – GreenEyedGuide on ScienceMeetsFood

In this article I wrote for ScienceMeetsFood.org, I discuss the growing world of caffeinated food in general and caffeinated peanut butter in particular. How does caffeinated peanut butter compare to regular peanut butter? To energy drinks?

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GreenEyedGuide on Science Meets Food

Science Meets Food is the official blog of the IFT Student Association (IFTSA), which has over 2,500 members from around the world. IFT Student Association members love science and have an everyday passion for food. They are Official Food Geeks, and IFT is their home.

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“Moderating caffeine intake can be a challenge. There are some days it seems there’s not enough caffeine in the world to keep your mind focused or your eyes from drooping, and there are other days when it seems like the smallest cup of coffee makes your heart race and hands shake. I’ve studied energy drinks and the science behind their ingredients for 10 years, and I find these products fascinating. I may know a lot about caffeinated drinks, but caffeinated food – well, that’s a whole new ballgame.

According to Caffeine Informer’s caffeine database [1], there are almost two hundred different food products enhanced with caffeine, including ice cream, granola, brownies, waffles, marshmallows, jelly beans, candy, gum, jerky, and good old fashioned dark chocolate. Okay, so that last one is actually naturally caffeinated… However, the food that interests me most on the list is the caffeinated peanut butter (because hello, it’s peanut butter and it’s delicious).

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Happy Caffeine Awareness Month! Top 10 ways to improve your caffeine IQ

March is Caffeine Awareness Month, and what better way to celebrate than to revisit some of the most popular caffeine-related GreenEyedGuide posts! Remember that rebuttal to BroBible’s energy drink article or the open letter to Time magazine? How about the three tips for parents or the two Year-In-Review lists of all the “Energy Drink of the Month” winners? Do you remember what happens when energy drinks dress up like workout supplements?
(Click the title to open the article in a new tab)

ONE – BroBible on Energy Drinks — All the Facts They Got Wrong

BroBible may be have expert insights on some matters, but their article on energy drinks proves biology and food science isn’t in their wheelhouse. Here’s the point-counterpoint to all the misleading statements in their article.

BroBible's misleading infographic on energy drink "science"
BroBible’s misleading infographic on energy drink “science”

TWO – Open Letter to Time regarding energy drink article in “The Answer Issue”

As a food scientist who’s studied energy drinks for over 10 years, Ms Sifferlin’s article came across as yet another “all energy drinks are lethal” story. While the article was missing many crucial facts, there were three points in particular that should be part of the conversation.

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THREE – Caffeine in Workout Supplements and the 5 Levels of Fatigue

This presentation covers the effects of caffeine when it’s consumed before, during, or after a workout. We also review how the Five Levels of Fatigue helps people determine which caffeine products (if any) are right for them.

FOUR – Energy Drinks and the ER — perspective

Energy drinks are in the news again, and this time the story is the reported increase in emergency room visits attributed to energy drinks. Are these stats more indicative of consumer misuse or that energy drinks are inherently more dangerous than other caffeinated beverages? Some clues to consider.

FIVE – Friends with the Monster? 3 Crucial Counterpoints to the Energy Drink Debate

As always, my goal is to educate and inform, to provide an alternate perspective to help people look past confusing scientific jargon and learn the tools to making the best choices for their lifestyle. Caffeine is not always the answer but to find the right answers we must ask the right questions.

SIX – Pop Quiz: Test your Caffeine IQ

Do you know the most common energy drink ingredient? (NO – IT’S NOT CAFFEINE!) Test your caffeine IQ with these 5 questions.


SEVEN – Kids and Energy Drinks — 3 Things Every Parent Should Know

How concerned do parents need to be about the use of energy drinks in kids and teens? In the Green-Eyed Guide guest blog on The Scientific Parent, we review the three major details often left out of these conversations on caffeine, and how these details can dramatically boost our efforts to keep ourselves and our kids healthy and safe.

Sci Parent

EIGHT – Caffeine Consumption in the USA

A study published in January 2014 involving over 40,000 people defines beverage caffeine intakes in the US, revealing the amounts of caffeine consumed and from what source per age group. As your Green-Eyed Guide, I’m going to explain what it all means.

Used with permission from Caffeine Informer. Source: Caffeine Safe Limits
Used with permission from Caffeine Informer. Source: Caffeine Safe Limits

NINE – Caffeine Consumption in the USA Part II: The Specifics

What can 42,000 people tell us about the caffeine habits of the US population? Plenty, if you look at the right details. Understanding this information is critical to any conversation about caffeine safety.

TEN – Putting Caffeine in Gum is a BAD IDEA, here’s why…

With new caffeinated foods popping up, the FDA is getting more pressure to reevaluate the safety of caffeine, particularly for adolescents. We evaluate the impact of caffeinated gum and why CANADA has the best caffeine regulations.



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Comments on Caffeinated Flour

While I am all for food science innovation, I am extremely cautious to with anything that makes it harder for one to keep track of how much caffeine they’ve consumed. Yes, I know there’s an app for that. But in a world that both loves coffee and loves to talk about the “dangers of energy drinks”, coffee flour warrants some concern.

An article in FWx discusses new caffeinated flour which can provide 100 mg (aka more than an 8 oz Red Bull) per 4 g flour. The innovation implications are enormous, and wonderful — a product developer’s dream come true! For caffeine and carb lovers, this innovation is the greatest thing since sliced bread! HOWEVER, the application can easily cause problems for those who do love all things caffeine (and/or carbs).

What if someone uses the new caffeinated peanut butter on their caffeinated toast? What if they then wash it down with a large cup of coffee or tea (caffeine amounts vary) or even just something made with green tea extract (such as a V8 V-fusion: 80mg caffeine from green tea extract)?

The European Food Safety Authority confirmed that up to 200 mg caffeine can be consumed per sitting, and 400 mg caffeine is the maximum daily dosage that is safe for healthy adults (anyone under 18 should stick to 100 mg, unless you’re Canadian then it’s just anyone under 14). How easy will it be for one too many (caffeinated) bagels or bear-claws to put someone past the point of safe caffeine consumption?

This innovation should be celebrated, with caution. Let us take this opportunity to revisit caffeine safety and how energy drinks aren’t the only “danger” for over-consumption.




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Visit the Energy Drink Guide Facebook page (sooo close to 100 Likes!)
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Get your copy of “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely”