A new study found that soldiers may be ingesting high levels of caffeine that may be causing more harm than good when taking dietary supplements to enhance their performance. Researchers tested popular supplements and vitamins sold at military bases and found that many product labels inaccurately listed the amount of caffeine in the supplement. Some labels did list caffeine as an ingredient but did not list the amount, which when tested had 300 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent to three cups of coffee.
Moderate caffeine consumption, two to three cups of coffee a day, is safe and can be beneficial for soldiers who need to be alert during high-risk situations. But too high dose can backfire, said the study researcher Dr. Pieter Cohen , an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance. High doses of caffeine can cause side effects including slower reaction times and a racing heartbeat.
While the caffeine found in the dietary supplements themselves may not be harmful and cause problems, combining the supplements with more caffeine from coffee, soda, or energy drinks may contribute to an unhealthy dose of caffeine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 45 percent of service members say they consume energy drinks every day according to Yahoo News.
Live Science reports Cohen said, “As soon as you start going up to the high doses, [the equivalent of six or seven cups of coffee a day], that mental sharpness you can gain from a little bit of caffeine starts to decline.” He added that an unhealthy amount may be possible with one serving of a high-caffeine dietary supplement and one energy drink.Because of inaccurate labels soldiers don’t know how much caffeine they are consuming and therefore cannot judge if they need to scale back their intake. Manufacturers of any dietary supplement should be required to list the accurate amount on the label. Currently, manufacturers are not required to list the amount of caffeine if it is part of a proprietary formula Cohen said.