Are we all drinking too much caffeine?
I once worked in an office with a guy who liked to brag about how he barely needed any sleep. "Just three hours," he'd say. To confirm this, we'd receive e-mails from him sent at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m.
He was an office legend. He was indestructible. He was someone to emulate. I guess we weren't technologically savvy enough at the time to realize that he probably set his e-mails on a timer while he soundly slept.
But regardless, sleeping as little as possible and being busy,busy, busy is something to be admired in our fast-paced, work hard, play hard, go go go culture. How often do you hear friends tell you: "I'm so stressed. I'm crazy busy"? They say it proudly. Does anyone ever brag about being, 'so relaxed; so lazy'? When was the last time someone under 10 told you they had nothing to do?
And how do we accomplish this hyper-alertness? Usually with a little help from a friend—caffeine in drinks, snacks, candy.
Caffeine is everywhere. There is just too much caffeine. Thermal coffee mugs or Starbucks paper cups have become as much an accessory as a handbag or a watch. People talk about getting their morning jolt. Their afternoon pick me up. Their early evening boost. Maybe around mid-day they switch to a Diet Pepsi, a Diet Coke. And for a supercharge? Monster drinks! 5-hour Energy drinks! What are these energy drink ingredients? Caffeine, of course.
Anything to keep you going!
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirmed the receipt of reports that 5-hour Energy may have been involved in 13 deaths over the past four years. According to the New York Times 5-hour Energy has been mentioned in 90 FDA filings since 2009, including more than 30 that involved serious or life-threatening events.
The news followed last month's FDA disclosure that it was investigating reports of five deaths that may be related to Monster Beverage's Monster Energy drinks.
And these highly-caffeinated beverages are the fastest-growing type of soft drink in the United States. According to Beverage Digest, sales increased 17 percent last year to nearly $9 billion.
Who is drinking these highly-caffienated beverages? Often it is kids who are emulating their parents' lifestyles.
"The energy drinks are so popular among the young crowd since they are below drinking age for alcohol. Caffeine is their drug of choice and they can get it legally," says Laura Chey, a Rochester, New York-based nutritionist.
The worst part? Kids are mixing these energy drinks with alcohol, adds Chey. "We find kids who are under 21 binging on alcohol. One way to get it into their systems faster is to mix it with the energy drinks. Again, very dangerous."
Another scary new trend is energy snacks. There's Cracker Jack's snack, Cracker Jack'D, which will contain the same amount of caffeine as a 12-ounce soda. Even Jelly Belly's, an Easter basket staple, has come out with Extreme Sport Beans, offering 50mg of caffeine per 100-calorie serving.
What's next? Will fast food restaurants be offering caffeinated fries, extreme burgers, supercharged tacos? Will you soon be able to order a pizza with pepperoni, extra cheese and caffeine?
It seems it's just a matter of time. As for me, I'll just take good old-fashioned nap. Goodnight.