American soft drink industry criticized for use of caffeine

August 22, 2000 in Healthy Eating

American soft drink industry criticized for use of caffeine

A majority of consumers tested cannot detect the flavor of caffeine in soft drinks, Johns Hopkins University researchers have found, and they believe that manufacturers must be adding caffeine to cola for other reasons. Researchers gave a taste test to 25 regular consumers of cola soft drinks. On average, the subjects reported drinking two 12-ounce servings of cola beverages per day, 5 days per week. In a screening session, all were able to detect a flavor difference between colas with sugar and diet colas.

The study participants were then asked to drink decaffeinated colas to which differing amounts of caffeine had been added. At the 0.1 mg/mL level, which is the amount of caffeine that most commercial colas contain, only two subjects (8%) could detect a flavor difference between the caffeinated beverage and a caffeine-free cola. The other subjects could taste a difference only when much higher levels of caffeine were mixed into the colas, at which point they reported a bitter flavor or after-taste. The lead researcher feel that people should be aware of the U.S. soft drink industry's real motives for adding caffeine--to produce psychotropic effects and to make consumers desire more of their product. A regular intake of two to three caffeinated sodas in a day is enough to cause physical dependency. In children, the dose needed to cause withdrawal is probably much lower, and children have much less ability than adults to make an informed choice.

As the Baltimore researchers acknowledge, a quarter of the participants were current smokers, and the association notes that most smokers have desensitized taste buds. The group also emphasizes that according to "every major independent health organization," moderate consumption of caffeine is safe.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.