Powdered caffeine: a supplement to be very wary of

Shakespeare asks in one of his plays, "Can one desire too much of a good thing?" Everyone in Alabama likely has his or her own answer to the question.

There are those who argue that too much of anything, even if it's good, carries risks. Food is good. Too much tends to lead to unhealthy obesity. One beer might be OK, but overindulgence creates a risk that reaches well beyond just the imbiber. If negligence results in a death that could have been prevented, holding the responsible person accountable through civil action may be called for.

Caffeine is one of those products that deserves respect. We deliver it to ourselves in so many ways, through coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate and, of course, soda. It can be beneficial, stimulating the brain. Some people believe it gives you an energy boost, though experts say that's only an illusion.

But caffeine is a drug that can be harmful in too great a quantity and one form of it is being tagged by critics as being more dangerous than others are. It is pure caffeine in powdered form. Detractors say that while it is available for purchase through online sources, it shouldn't be.

According to reports, the product is responsible for at least two overdose deaths in the past year. Both of the victims were young men. In both cases, relatives said the victims were healthy and thoughtful about how they took the powder. Still, they died of overdoses.

The Food and Drug Administration says it's not easy to get a safe dose using common kitchen measuring tools. For example, sellers of the powder tell users to limit daily consumption of caffeine to no more than 1/16th teaspoon daily. That includes caffeine from any and all sources.

The FDA has warned consumers off powdered caffeine. It is also considering banning the product. But it can't do that unless it can show it caused harm when people used it as directed. And experts say many these deaths are attributed to heart attacks. Deeper probes into what might have triggered the failure don't get conducted.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "FDA Hands Tied in Powdered Caffeine Abuse Cases," Kimberly Leonard, Dec. 29, 2014

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