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January 10, 2013

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Since proper herbal supplement regulation is so elusive, it's important for consumers to do their best to be informed on the products they're taking. Studies like these are necessary to validate manufacturer claims and establish which manufacturers are trustworthy. It is one problem to not get what you pay for, but the other edge of the sword is that you may get too much of it, or something that you don't want to take altogether. Many manufacturer's hide their product formulations behind the label "proprietary blend," making it impossible for consumers to know how much they're getting of what. Taking too much of a substance can lead to negative health consequences, and caffeine is a good example of that.

Misleading labels seem to be a huge problem among many products. I think it is important to be careful when purchasing over the counter products since many regulations are lacking. More research should be done to ensure safety. I am glad, however, that these mislabels are constantly being found. It also makes me wonder how many other products are incorrect.

How scary! I for one rely on caffeine products to get through my day. I drink at least two cups of coffee and regularly take a 5 hour energy drink. I try different things that contain caffeine to give me energy. If the products all contain misleading amounts of caffeine in them, I am scared to know just how much I am ingesting! It is very important that products are labeled correctly, because there are consumers that have much more caffeine daily than me.

Unfortunately, I was not surprised by the findings of this study. It makes me wonder how the manufacturers tested their products for caffeine content (or if they even did so). I agree with the previous comments that highlight the consumers that need to limit their intake of caffeine or avoid it totally. This study was conducted on a military base, where caffeine consumption can be high. It is dangerous for the soldiers to not know how much they are actually consuming though. This study was published pretty recently, but it will be interesting to see if any of the companies are required to change their labeling based on these findings.

This highlights the importance that any drug or supplement is properly labeled with all ingredients and the correct amount. Caffeine is a drug. There is no arguing about that. If a prescription drug manufacturer inaccurately labeled medication, there would be massive recalls and possible lawsuits if adverse events happened.

This study doesn’t alarm me as much as it possibly should. The products that didn’t list caffeine as an ingredient only contained “minimal amounts” of caffeine. It is doubtful that this amount would cause substantial harm. The ones that listed caffeine without the amount would make a person who was reading the label and concerned about caffeine intake rethink the decision to buy it, even without knowing the exact amount. The products that inaccurately reported caffeine content do alarm me, though.

This is quite unfortunate because not everybody can have caffeine. It reminds me of my friends who do not drink coffee because of the unpleasant effects that they experience. Also, it concerns me because of the incident with the young girl drinking monster energy drink. There are maximum amounts of caffeine for young people and having misleading labels can have a serious consequence. I hope that there will be more strict rules with labeling caffeine products.

Articles like this make me never want to take natural supplements. There is so much misleading and incorrect information on these labels and it is difficult to know what is ok to take and what is not. Compounding the issue, as another poster noted, is the lack of education of employees at stores selling natural supplements. Perhaps there should be some sort of natural supplement certification program employees can participate in to become more aware of the products they are selling.

I wanted to high-light a few important things I learned about caffeine this week while recording the bottom-line monograph. Caffeine has an evidence grade of A for apnea, cognitive and exercise performance, and respiratory disorders. Additionally, caffeine has an evidence grade of C for diabetes as it may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, however, an important side effect of caffeine is increase blood glucose and increase blood pressure. Chronic caffeine use may result in tolerance and dependence. In pregnant or breastfeeding women, use should be limited as caffeine may pass through the placenta and pass through breast milk. For more information please refer to the Natural Standard caffeine monograph.

To add to my last comment about this excerpt, I think it is scary how employees who help customers and answer their questions at supplement stores are most likely rather uneducated about supplements and their components. As I learned after reading this, the separate ingredients of a supplement component may include several substances (such as caffeine), but the supplement label does not specify the make-up of separate components. I assume that many supplement store employees lack the education (such as pharmacy or medical school CAM elective or rotation courses) that would allow for an adequate knowledge of available products and for providing the customer with accurate information. This is frightening to think about, especially since high doses of many supplements may have bad or even dangerous side effects.

During one week at pharmacy school last year when I had four tests to take in one week, I couldn’t help but resort to caffeine so that I could stay awake long enough at night to get all of my studying done. At one point, I stopped at a local Vitamin Shoppe, and asked the person working there where the caffeine pills were located. He said they only had one bottle left (I got lucky). However, after reading this, I realize now that there were most likely several more supplements containing caffeine in the store that day. This is a classic case of a lack of common sense (on the part of both the store employee and myself), as I’m sure we both knew that caffeine is a component of some key supplement ingredients, like tea. I’m glad I read this, because if I ever need a caffeine supplement in the future, I’ll know what to look for.

I agree that patients need to be educated on the importance of accurately reading product labels prior to intake. This study is very interesting and quite alarming that out of the 31 popular caffeine supplements only 20 of them actually listed caffeine as an ingredient accurately. This type of study makes consumers as well as health care providers more aware and to be more cautious when taking supplemental products.

I also didn’t know that soft drinks couldn’t have more than 71mg of caffeine per 12 oz. I don’t really understand why energy drinks don’t have to follow that regulation. Maybe they’re marketed as an energy supplement and not a soft drink?
Overall, I think this article demonstrates that it’s important for pharmacists and health care professionals to know what natural products contain caffeine such as kola nut or different tea extracts so that they can imply if a product is likely to contain caffeine even if the caffeine content is not mentioned on the label.

Caffeine is a really interesting supplement since most Americans consume it daily out of habit and/or necessity, myself included. Reading this article made me wonder how much caffeine I intake on a normal day without taking additional supplements. This morning, for example, I purchased a tall brewed coffee from Starbucks, and as I sit here drinking it I decide to look up approximately how much caffeine it contains... To my surprise, my 12 oz cup contains about 260 mg of caffeine. YIKES! Maybe I should consider decaf tomorrow since a tall decaf coffee still contains about 20 mg of caffeine? In case you're wondering about your daily caffeine intake, feel free to check out this website: http://www.energyfiend.com/the-caffeine-database

I am glad to see that more studies are being performed on supplements containing potentially dangerous substances. Caffeine can have many ill effects on patients with heart issues, and it is important for products containing caffeine, or any drug for that matter, to be properly labeled. It is scary to think that there are caffeinated supplements available that do not even list caffeine as an ingredient. Unfortunately the same is often true for energy drinks; they often do not list caffeine as an ingredient or list it in combination with other products as their proprietary "energy blend", masking the amount of caffeine in the drink. Caffeine is a drug, and needs to be labeled correctly on products it is available in.

I am glad that this study was done. This is very concerning that caffeine levels were not shown accurately in so many cases. If this can be seen in caffeine products that are distributed at this current time what other products are sold that are not labeled with accurate amounts. This may lead to major adverse events or have no impact on the individual.

I am very glad this study was done. It makes patients and providers more aware of the concerns with labeling on supplements. Patients taking caffeine daily when they are unaware they are taking it at all can have many consequences.

This is another example of why consumers must be cautious in purchasing supplements and make sure to read the labeling. The article notes that some of these supplements contained more than 200 mg of caffeine per serving and others had little to no caffeine - quite a wide range. I also didn't realize that there was a limit of 71mg of caffeine / 12 fl oz in soda.

This is an interesting study, though I am curious to know which supplements are those that are incorrectly labeled. As a pharmacist, I have many supplements on my shelf with caffeine listed as an ingredient, and it would be good to know which products are incorrectly labeled. Since caffeine is a drug, I did not think that incorrect labeling was as big of an issue as it is with dietary supplements. Unfortunately, incorrect labeling seems to be occurring more and more frequently; whether this is due to more oversight or sloppy manufacturing practices is not as clear.

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