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Drinks tripped up by excess caffeine

A double-shot of coffee may produce a bigger high than

the new liquid "cocaine" and other so-called energy drinks loaded with sugar

and caffeine, according to medical experts.

While the notorious Cocaine Energy Drink boasts of 280 milligrams of

caffeine per 8.4-ounce serving, another brand, Wired X294, promises a jolt of

294 milligrams per 16-ounce serving. Surprisingly, both are tame when compared

to a large 16-ounce cup of Starbucks coffee, packing a caffeine wallop

containing 372 milligrams, according to medical experts interviewed yesterday.

"To put in perspective, a tablet of NoDoze contains 200 milligrams of

caffeine," said Dr. Bruce Goldberger, director of the University of Florida's

William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine. "In Florida, we have an

epidemic of cocaine-related deaths," Goldberger said. "What this does is

legitimizes cocaine use, especially among the young people it is targeted for."

Still, the "cocaine" drink is about two times stronger than Red Bull

[CORRECTION: The caffeine content of the high-energy drink Cocaine is 3.5 times

that of Red Bull. A story Tuesday was incorrect. PG. A17 ALL 10/6/06], the

most popular so-called energy drink on the market, packing 80 milligrams per

8.3-ounce serving.

But Dr. David Brown, chief of cardiovascular medicine at Stony Brook

University Medical Center, said that there are serious medical risks associated

with heavy caffeinated beverage consumption. "Caffeine is a stimulant to the

body that varies significantly from person-to-person," he said. "People have

different thresholds, but excessive caffeine can induce excessive heart rhythm

abnormalities. People should drink caffeine beverages in moderation."

Jennifer Vimbor, registered dietitian at St. Vincent's Hospital Manhattan,

said that in certain people, caffeine can cause serious health effects,

including anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Caffeine, a stimulant, is absorbed

rapidly into the bloodstream from the gastrointestinal tract and reaches

maximum concentration in about an hour. Studies show it can make the heart beat

abnormally fast.

Goldberger said warning labels should accompany all caffeinated beverages,

and nutritional labeling should be expanded to include the amount of caffeine

per serving. He said caffeinated beverages can pose a threat to people

sensitive to the drug, including pregnant women, children and infants. The FDA

does not regulate the amount of caffeine in beverages, said Cynthia Benson, an

FDA spokeswoman.

In a study in the March 2006 Journal of Analytic Toxicology, Goldberger and

colleagues found most energy drinks are loaded with caffeine far exceeding the

recommended level of 65 milligrams per 12 ounce for carbonated colas.

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