Toward a home test for detecting potentially dangerous levels of caffeine

Toward a home test for detecting potentially dangerous levels of caffeine
Measuring caffeine in drinks with a home test could help prevent serious side effects. Credit: ammza12/iStock/Thinkstock

The shocking news of an Ohio teen who died of a caffeine overdose in May highlighted the potential dangers of the normally well-tolerated and mass-consumed substance. To help prevent serious health problems that can arise from consuming too much caffeine, scientists are reporting progress toward a rapid, at-home test to detect even low levels of the stimulant in most beverages and even breast milk. Their report appears in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Mani Subramanian and colleagues note that caffeine's popularity as a "pick-me-up" has led to it being added to more than 570 beverages and 150 food products, including gums and jelly beans. It also comes in a pure powder form that consumers can use themselves to spike drinks and food. In small amounts, most people can handle caffeine without a problem. But can lead to serious , including insomnia, hallucinations, vitamin deficiency, several types of cancer and in rare cases, death. Subramanian's team wanted to develop a quick and easy way for consumers to determine whether the caffeine levels in their foods and drinks fall within a safe range.

They tested an enzyme called caffeine dehydrogenase and found that it could detect caffeine in a variety of drinks—with the exception of teas—within one minute. Also, it was sensitive enough to pick up on 's presence at concentrations as low as 1 to 5 parts per million, the maximum limit the Food and Drug Administration advises for nursing mothers. They say that their method could be integrated into a dip-stick type of test, like over-the-counter pregnancy tests, that could be used at home.

More information: J. Agric. Food Chem., Article ASAP. DOI: 10.1021/jf501598c

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Energy drinks raise new questions about caffeine's safety

Jun 24, 2014

Caffeine, which was extensively researched for possible links to birth defects in animals and cardiovascular disease in humans over 30 years ago and then exonerated, has become the focus of renewed concerns as caffeine-containing ...

That caffeine in your drink -- is it really 'natural?'

Mar 07, 2012

That caffeine in your tea, energy drink or other beverage — is it really natural? Scientists are reporting successful use for the first time of a simpler and faster method for answering that question. ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

Oct 24, 2014

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

Oct 24, 2014

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

Oct 24, 2014

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments