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Why do soft drink manufacturers add caffeine to some sodas?


“In a small study, researchers asked 25 regular cola drinkers if they could distinguish between caffeine-free Coca-Cola and Coke with added caffeine. Only 8 percent were able to detect caffeine in concentrations used in name-brand drinks such as Coke and Pepsi. The rest couldn’t ‘taste’ the caffeine until the levels were much higher than those approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


‘This study stands in sharp contrast to the claim some purely for taste,’ says Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md., who led the research.


Griffiths draws a comparison between nicotine and caffeine. ‘Both are psychoactive drugs,’ he explains, ‘and until recently, cigarette companies denied that nicotine is addicting and said it was added merely as a flavor enhancer for cigarettes. The same is being said of caffeine.’


Americans drank 15 billion gallons of soda in 1998, according to the Beverage Digest Company; soft drinks are the largest single source of added sugar in the American diet.


If caffeine plays such a relatively minor role as a flavoring agent in colas, the authors surmise, perhaps the high consumption rates of caffeinated cola drinks are due to the mood-altering and dependency effects of the drinks instead.


The researchers note that both adults and children can become physiologically and psychologically dependent on caffeinated sodas, and may experience headache and lethargy – symptoms of withdrawal – when they stop. In addition, children who consume soft drinks only sporadically may exhibit mood changes that could negatively affect behavior.


While adults can be informed about and learn to cope with symptoms of caffeine overload or withdrawal, Griffiths is not so sure kids can do the same. ‘Given that sodas are aggressively marked to kids, manufacturers should say why the caffeine is there … it’s a case of knowing what you’re getting and why.’


Results of the new study appear in the August issue of Archives of Family Medicine, a journal of the American Medical Association.”

-Onhealth (August 15, 2000)


“Researchers at Johns Hopkins University published a startling research that demonstrated that “caffeine has the cardinal features of a prototypic drug of abuse.” In other words, based on its drug effects, caffeine acts much like any classic addictive drug. The implications is that habitual caffeine users are as much drug addicts, in the chemical sense of the term, as cocaine addicts, heroin addicts, or nicotine addicts. This thought is repugnant to many of the upstanding American citizens who enjoy their morning cup of coffee (or caffeinated drinks). Nonetheless, many of those who resent the implications of the research are no less hooked on caffeine. 


The realization that caffeine is an addictive drug has been motivation enough for a number of people to break free from this habit as well.” -Proof Positive, p. 411

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