The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 6, 2013

Caffeinated gum carries side effects worth chewing on

— If you’re into caffeine, but you’re not necessarily into the whole drinking a cup of hot liquid thing, there’s news for you.

Wrigley’s is coming out with a gum that has all the caffeine you’d get from a cup of joe. It’s called Alert Energy Caffeine Gum.

But before you start popping sticks of gum for that morning jolt, consider the health risks.

“Caffeine is a stimulant, and like anything taken in large amounts can be harmful or even dangerous,” said Mankato Clinic dietitian Erin Gonzalez.

The way people consume gum is far different from the way they consume coffee, Gonzalez said. Gum is consumed with much less thought, which can lead to the kind of mindless consumption that could result in the intake of dangerous levels of caffeine. Throw in coffee, tea or even soda, and the result could be even worse.

Mayo Clinic Health System dietitian Lynette LeDuc said adding caffeine to commonly used products can catch people off guard.

For normally healthy people, elevated caffeine levels can result in “an inability to concentrate, insomnia or feeling jittery,” LeDuc said. “The good news is that once caffeine consumption is reduced or eliminated, those symptoms go away. Adding caffeine to multiple food and beverage products catches the consumer off guard, and individuals with medical conditions that require avoidance or limitation of caffeine may inadvertently consume caffeine.”

In the case of this gum, users should be well aware of its intended use by nature of its name.

But as any parent knows, kids aren’t always the most cautious consumers.

Gonzalez says parents should pay attention to what their children consume. She urges them to ask themselves if chewing a caffeine gum will have any benefit for their child.

“Is this benefit worth the potential risk of side effects such as increased heart rate, blood pressure and potential weakened bones?”

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