Many people see caffeine powder as a stronger version of coffee, using it to boost energy, increase concentration, improve athletic performance or help with weight loss. It might seem that using this as a dietary supplement to your regular intake is just the same as having a strong cup of coffee or a few energy drinks. However, caffeine powder is dangerous, and even lethal, if you use it without understanding it.
How Strong is Caffeine Powder?
It's true that caffeine powder, or caffeine anhydrous, is essentially a stronger version of other forms of caffeine. However, few people realize how strong this substance truly is. Powdered caffeine products are highly concentrated, and depending on the specific product, 1 teaspoon of pure caffeine powder has the same amount of caffeine as 28 to 100 cups of regular coffee.
To compare, a teaspoon of some powdered caffeine products have around 5 grams of caffeine or 5000 milligrams, while a standard cup of joe has 65 to 100 milligrams of caffeine. That's 50 times stronger!
The Food and Drug Administration announced that it issued warning letters to five companies selling powered caffeine because their products pose a "significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury to customers."
The FDA explained that these innocuous-seeming products are dangerous because of how easy it is to ingest a toxic amount of caffeine. The Centers for Science in the Public Interest says that just 2 teaspoons of powdered caffeine would kill the majority of adults.
Because the powder is so concentrated, the difference between a safe amount and a lethal amount is miniscule. As explained by Henry Spiller, director of Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital,
"Unlike the caffeine in brewed coffee or energy drinks, though, even the smallest dose of caffeine powder can be lethal. Powdered caffeine is measured in the grams (g) instead of milligrams, which means a single teaspoon can have as much caffeine as 100 cups of coffee! Normally, it would be impossible to drink this many cups of coffee in a short amount of time. But with powdered caffeine, one teaspoon or approximately 3 grams is a lethal dose for children or someone with a heart condition."
The Risks of Caffeine Powder
The obvious risk of this caffeinated substance is how incredibly strong and concentrated it is. However, another danger is that consumers often don't have the ability to accurately measure out a safe dose. The recommended serving size is 50 to 200 milligrams, which is 1/16 of a teaspoon. Since most measuring spoon sets don't include this size, it's impossible to measure out a serving size of caffeine powder, and the best you can do is estimate it.
Plus, if you're not paying attention to dosage and don't realize that you need to measure out a tiny amount, you can easily use a huge amount of caffeine powder without realizing its effects. Many companies sell 100 grams of the product as the smallest available amount, and this adds up to 2,000 servings.
"Caffeine usually has a self-limiting feature: as you slowly consume too much, more unpleasant effects become prominent: vomiting and jitteriness/agitation. If you take 3 or 4 energy shots in a row or drink 10 to 15 cups of coffee, vomiting begins. It's easy to recognize when you've consumed too much. And in most cases, the misuse stops there, although the vomiting may persist for hours."
However, caffeine overdose is scarily easy when the substance you're using is so highly concentrated, because you don't notice the side effects of caffeine until it's too late. Typically, you'd stop drinking caffeinated beverages when you feel an increased blood pressure, nausea, erratic heartbeat, and the many other effects of caffeine. Spiller goes on to say,
"But with pure powdered caffeine, mixing one or two teaspoons in an 'energy shake' leads to a frighteningly large overdose, which you won't know until it's too late. A teaspoon or more will send anyone to the hospital or possibly the morgue."