Just when I thought that the only decent sources for a good caffeine jolt came from coffee, tea or pop, I discover that many of those so-called dietary supplements are loaded with the stimulant, even though it isn’t listed on the label. But, wait, I thought compounds like caffeine were required to be listed on the label. Then again, I don’t recall ever seeing caffeine listed on a bag of coffee beans or box of green tea.
It turns out that caffeine must be listed as an ingredient only if it is added to a product in its pure form. So that Diet Code Red Mountain Dew that helped me make 1000-mile 1-stop road trips lists caffeine, and a bunch of other really gnarly stuff among its ingredients. But, if that caffeine is delivered to a product as part of another ingredient, such as coffee, tea or any of about 60 other plants that make caffeine naturally, it never makes it on the label.
According to scientists at the USDA’s ARS division, about 50% of American adults consume dietary supplements on a regular basis. Some of these products are aimed at making you feel perkier and even can help some folks lose weight. And many of those dietary supplements are loaded with caffeine-rich plant products known as botanicals. So if you find yourself getting the jitters just before bed, you might be consuming something that is literally winding you up. Stimulating botanicals found in many supplements include guarana, yerba mate, kola nut, and green tea extract – all contain significant quantities of caffeine.
According to the ARS’s Nutrient Data Laboratory’s National Nutrient Database, one 8-ounce cup of coffee contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine. Of the 53 dietary supplements analyzed, 27 provided as much caffeine as 1 to 2 cups of coffee in the recommended daily dose. Eleven supplements had caffeine levels that ranged from 2 to 4 cups of coffee and 11 others offered the same jolt you’d get from consuming 4 to 6 cups of coffee. Four of the tested products provided as much caffeine as you might find in 7 to 8 cups of coffee – yikes. Can you imagine getting 7 to 8 cups of coffee worth of caffeine in just a few capsules, or a single serving of an energy drink?
If you are like me and try to limit your caffeine intake, at least at certain times of the day, you should be sure to look for guarana, yerba mate, kola nut, and green tea extract on the ingredients list of your favorite supplements. The unwanted buzz you kill just might be your own.
Read more about caffeine in dietary supplements here.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.