A new study was conducted on supplements, checking to see if they were accurately reporting what was in them. The study revealed that some manufacturers are under, over or simply not reporting accurate amounts of caffeine in their products.
FDA: The Food and Drug Administration has little regulatory capacity over dietary supplements. If a problem is reported or suspected, they can test for problems and require either recalls or relabeling. However, they don’t have direct say. The manufacturers are expected to handle accurate reporting according to the laws…but apparently some aren’t.
What is caffeine? This is a naturally occurring tannic acid. There are several plant sources, including coffee, tea and chocolate. One less known source of caffeine is guarana.
What does it do? Caffeine can do several things in a healthy body. It triggers “fight or flight” responses. This heightens awareness, clears the mind and readies the body for effort. It has been used in many cultures prior to raids or hunting/gathering in order to keep awake and curb hunger. In weight loss supplements, the metabolism boost and the appetite suppression is appreciated.
Why is it a problem? There are medical conditions that can be affected by caffeine. It raises blood pressure, so those with cardiac problems may experience chest pain and high blood pressure. It also increases heart rate. Depression and bipolar disorder can be affected by it, as the heightening of awareness is due to serotonin loss. If caffeine isn’t reported or the amounts are under reported, this can be a problem.
Perfectly healthy people may also have difficulties. Energy drinks are already high in caffeine. Mixing that with the caffeine in supplements could trigger a rapid heartbeat, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and bone loss.
Drug interactions: As you might guess, there are a few. Caffeine can interfere with blood pressure medications, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. In fact, there is an entire list of interactions including GERD, estrogen and antibiotics. This makes under reporting or not reporting a serious issue.
What can we do? The study mentioned above may get the FDA involved with the supplements, though they weren’t listed in the findings. Reading the ingredient labels is of minimal use in this area, as caffeine isn’t even mentioned…even by herbal ingredient.
As a master herbalist, my suspicion is that these supplements are either weight loss, energy or body building supplements. It would make limited sense to put caffeine in most others as it would be counterproductive.
If you use energy drinks, drink a lot of caffeinated beverages or have medical problems, talk to your doctor and your pharmacist before taking any supplement, especially if there is reason to suspect caffeine might be involved. They will know your medical history and the drugs you are taking so they can advise you safely. Also, watch health news to see if any supplements end up on a recall list. If the FDA researches them, you may be sure it will happen.