By Keri Gans
May 06, 2013

Do you have difficulty getting up in the morning? Feel like taking a nap in the middle of the afternoon? In the old days, you might have simply grabbed a cup of coffee to get you going. But today thanks to Wrigley, the chewing gum manufacturer, you could buy a stick of gum that provides the same amount of caffeine as about a half-cup of coffee. If you ask me, this is crazy.

At first it seemed that the biggest rage with caffeinated products was in energy drinks, like Red Bull. Today the market is so huge with these types of beverages I can't even keep up. Much to my dismay, many brands of bottled water also now include caffeine and, if that wasn't enough, it can also be found in such products as jelly beans, waffles, and potato chips. And to make matter worse, these foods and drinks are not only being consumed by adults but also by children.

With the launch of Wrigley's gum, the FDA is now looking into the potential impact that added caffeine may have on children and adolescents. This is probably long overdue. Generally it is agreed that consuming up to 300 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day is safe for adults. That's roughly the amount you would get from three cups (one cup equals 8 ounces or one "vente" from Starbucks) of coffee. Consuming more than 300mg could have negative side effects such as irritability, sleeplessness, anxiety, and diarrhea.

What I find sad about this whole caffeine situation is that is seems we have become a nation that looks for energy to be found in a cup, bottle, or package, starting with our children. Whatever happened with getting a good night's sleep and eating healthy? Sure I love my morning cup of java, but that is because I love the taste of it. It's my bowl of oatmeal, packed with high-fiber carbohydrates, that give me my energy to get moving.

And when I feel a lull in the afternoon, instead of grabbing a cup of coffee, I might grab a piece of fruit and a yogurt, once again looking for healthy carbs that convert to glucose in my body for natural energy. Also, one should never underestimate the power of exercise. Once you get those endorphins going, it surely beats a cup of joe hands-down.

I do hope the FDA cracks down on the use of caffeine in products, especially those targeted toward children and adolescents, as it seems the total amount consumed daily can become unexpectedly high. In the meanwhile, I will continue to advocate for getting energized naturally with wholesome foods, physical activity, and going to bed at a reasonable time, for all ages.