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Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us Hardcover – Mar 13 2014
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"Caffeinated offers a fascinating, often disturbing look at America's favorite recreational drug. The book is another reminder that some people will do just about anything to make money--at the expense of our health."—Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Command and Control
“Riding a buzz clearly generated by its subject, Murray Carpenter's Caffeinated takes readers around the world on a journey that brings humanity's favorite drug to life, in all its glory and grime. You'll never think the same way about your morning cup of coffee again.”—Mark McClusky, Editor, Wired.com
“Caffeinated is the entertaining, sweeping, well-researched saga of the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug and its various delivery systems, from coffee and Coca-Cola to chocolate and energy drinks. Murray Carpenter, himself a happy addict, covers the caffeinated waterfront.” --Mark Pendergrast, author of For God, Country & Coca-Cola and Uncommon Grounds
“Caffeinated is a surprising exposé of the “caffeine industrial complex,” the industry that markets this substance in every form it can. This book compellingly argues that the health hazards of excessive caffeine intake need more attention and better regulation. I’m convinced. You will be too.”—Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University, and author of What to Eat
"I'm not sure if Murray Carpenter's splendid book, Caffeinated, will lead you to drink more coffee, or less. But it will certainly make you think about your next cup of joe (or tea or Red Bull) in new and startling ways. Carpenter makes a mighty mountain out of a milligram, weaving together a story of history, science, lore and slick marketing in ways that offer surprising vistas at every turn."—Wayne Curtis, author of And a Bottle of Rum
“I don’t even drink coffee, but I found Caffeinated enlivening, with just the right overtones of sweet and bitter. Weaving together history, law and science, Carpenter makes a compelling case that most of us are addicted to a brilliantly marketed drug disguised as a mellow morning ritual. Fascinating, disturbing, to be savored.”—Florence Williams, author of Breasts
“From unassuming Diet Cokes to the canned monstrosities chugged by college kids, caffeine seems to be in nearly everything we drink – but where does it come from, what does it do to our bodies, and why have we come to consume so much of it? In Caffeinated, Murray Carpenter gives us the answers. He traces the evolution of this habit, from idyllic highland coffee farms in Guatemala to regulations-averse Chinese factories that produce mountains of synthetic caffeine. Caffeinated distills an extraordinary reporting effort on this long-used “flavoring agent” into a captivating tale of insidious drugging that deserves shelf space alongside Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”—Jennie Erin Smith, author of Stolen World
“The world's most popular stimulant now has a book to match. A double espresso shot of java journalism, Caffeinated brews up a masterly combination of page-turning narrative with deeply researched history and news. From professional athletes to industry insiders, from the coffee plantations of Colombia to the world's largest, most secretive caffeine manufacturing plant in the hinterlands of China, Carpenter spill the beans on America's drug of choice. More eye-opening than a case of Red Bull!”—Dan Hurley, author of Smarter
About the Author
MURRAY CARPENTER has reported caffeine-related stories for the New York Times, Wired, National Geographic, NPR, and PRI’s The World. He has also written for the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor and other media outlets. He holds a degree in psychology from the University of Colorado and an MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, and has worked as a medical lab assistant in Ohio, a cowboy in Colombia, a farmhand in Virginia, and an oil-exploring “juggie” in Wyoming. He lives in Belfast, Maine.
Top Customer Reviews
Carpenter's book blends history, interviews, personal accounts and a multitude of test results into a huge compendium of statistics. Though initially engrossing, so much data eventually leave the reader glassy-eyed and overwhelmed. Instead, Carpenter's discussion of political issues proves more gripping; he sites thought-provoking examples of corporate marketing tactics designed to underplay caffeine’s ability to cause panic attacks, insomnia, anxiety and addiction.
The author also details uses of caffeine that border on the absurd: caffeinated "apple pie" in a toothpaste-like tube for keeping military personnel "amped up" and caffeine-infused pantyhose that promise weight loss. Finally, Carpenter pleasantly recounts his visits to coffee farms in Guatemala and a coffee roasting plant in Vermont. Refused access to the world’s largest synthetic caffeine factory in China, however, Carpenter notes that the industry has a long way to go. These factories rarely undergo inspection and often sink into unsanitary condition. Something to keep in mind considering that "just three Chinese factories exported seven million pounds of synthetic caffeine to the United States in 2011, nearly half of our total imports.”
The book begins with a defining a few terms that we will encounter a few times throughout the rest of this review. The first is CDM - Caffeine Delivery Mechanisms, this includes any method ingesting caffeine whether it be natural or artificial form. The second is SCAD, Carpenter attempts to come up with s standard dose for comparison purposes: "In an effort to make this easier, I came up with a measure called a Standard Caffeine Dose, or a SCAD. A SCAD is seventy-five milligrams. This is a handy standard, roughly equal to a shot of espresso, 150ml of coffee, a 250ml can of Red Bull, two 350ml cans of Coke or Pepsi, a 500ml bottle of Mountain Dew, or a pint of Diet Coke (which has higher caffeine concentrations than Coke)." p.XV. Carpenter has gone on a journey through the different CDM's available both at home and abroad.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It opened my eyes to a lot of things. I ordered another copy and sent it to a friend who is an athletic coach.
Buzz spends a lot of time on the physiology and biology behind caffeine and the effects it has on your body. Caffeinated, however, spends more time on the commercial side. For instance, it covers not just coffee and tea, but the plethora of energy drinks, pick-me-ups, and military applications of caffeine, as well as various food incidents that caused the FDA to take action. For instance, it mentions that the earliest documented source of caffeine was from chocolate, which I thought was interesting, since I'd always thought that the use of Tea in China and India long predated that.
It did provide several pieces of information that I previously didn't know, such as the fact that the orange soda drink, Sunkist, contains caffeine! And a significant amount of it at that! Fanta, by contrast, does not. It never ceases to amaze me what the FDA is or is not allowed to regulate, and the book provides quite a list of kid-enticing snacks that surprised me as containing caffeine.
In any case, the book does explain why in recent years, it's been harder and harder for me to find power-gel or gu type products that don't contain caffeine. It appears to have been used as a performance enhancing drugs by professional athletes ever since it was removed from the prohibited list in 2004!
All in all, I'd say that the book's a quick read and well worth a shot, but I found myself skimming several chapters in boredom as the author never wants to say in a paragraph what he can use an entire chapter to write about. Not really recommended, but as I wrote this review, I realized I learned more from the book than I thought I had, so I can't really dismiss it either.
Carpenter begins with one of the worlds favored sources of caffeine-chocolate. An archaeological dig in Mexico has turned up traces of chocolate that are more than 3500 years old. He takes a tour of the farms that grow cacao beans. The cacao bean contains cocoa butter, caffeine, theobromine, and many molecules producing flavor and aroma. Much of the chocolate made is 30 to 70% cacao with lots of sugar, to offset the bitterness.
Another source of caffeine is tea. Not too surprising when tea is steeped for longer periods more caffeine is extracted. For instance the number of milligrams of caffeine extracted after one minute is 17milligrams, after three minutes 38 milligrams, after 5 min 47 mg of caffeine.
Similar to wine and beer connoisseur’s, coffee lovers delight in using long poetic descriptions. They use a coffee wheel to describe the difference between light roast, medium roast, and dark roast. This despite many controlled tests showing that experts neither agree with each other or themselves in multiple trials of describing the aroma and flavor of different coffees. On a larger scale Michael Norton, a coffee trader, decided to substitute cheap $2/lb coffee for famous Kona coffee that sells for $10/lb. Interestingly the buyers for major coffee companies like Starbucks bought it. They couldn't tell the difference!
There are two main types of coffee arabica, used in most coffee you buy and robusta which as the name implies is quite flavorful.
One of the chief flavors of coffee is caffeine and the more roasting the less caffeine. So if you want a lot of caffeine try light roast and the least caffeinated is the dark roast though it has additional flavor. The buzz that you can get from a lot of caffeine can be moderated by theobromine. Some think that theobromine in tea makes it less intense, but the generally half the amount of caffeine in the same volume is the major effect. It has also been found that the amount of caffeine even varies widely over the same coffee made at the same Starbucks. This would be a reason why a cup of coffee can have a very different effect on different days.
An interesting character, Bob Stiller, had his first success starting a company that made double wide cigarette paper mostly to facilitate making marijuana joints. His next venture was Green Mountain Coffee making gourmet coffee. As competition grew he came up with the Keurig system for brewing single cups. The cups are lined with filter paper, filled with nitrogen, to prevent oxidation and sealed with aluminum foil. In the Keurig the cup is perforated on both ends and hot water poured though. Sold this way they are getting thirty dollars a pound compared to about $10 at most companies.
Caffeine, in appropriate amount for a given individual, has many positive effects on mood, the ability to work, problem-solving, and extra energy to get through the day. Some individuals are quite sensitive to caffeine and will get the effects from just a few milligrams a day, others require many hundreds of milligrams of caffeine to have a similar effect. In some individuals caffeine is habit-forming, but for many individuals the amount they take is self limiting because of increased stomach problems, nervousness and sleeplessness.
Since caffeine affects people in different ways, methods have been invented to control the level of caffeine. In sodas the amount added is completely controlled. Coffee and tea can be decaffeinated leaving only 2 to 3 milligrams for 8 ounce cup an average. With coffee beans the method used is washing with super critical carbon dioxide, at 3500 psi and 190°F where it behaves more like a liquid. Acting like a solvent for caffeine removes the caffeine without removing the molecules that give most of the flavor and aroma. The millions of tons of caffeine resulting from this process can be resold to companies like soda makers who wish to put a certain amount of caffeine into their drinks or other products.
High pressure liquid chromatography is used to measure caffeine in samples. Less than 0.3% caffeine is considered decaf. Most Columbian coffee's have between 1.2 and 1.9% caffeine , rich robusta's can go as high as 2.6% caffeine. A typical 16 ounce cup of decaf has 10 to 14 mg of caffeine. Caffeine was synthesized by Monsanto and there are many places around the world where it is made.
Many athletes, for instance Iron Man contestants, use carefully measured doses of caffeine capsules to enhance their performance. Studies show that you get optimum effect using 3 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. This gives approximately a 3% improvement in overall performance. This may not sound like much but it is more then the time separating the top 15 finishers in the Ironman race. It is a constant balancing act to get the maximum positive effect without the negative side effects.
Part of Naval Seals training is called hell week. During this training they are presented with many problems, lots of physical and mental challenges, with very little sleep. During the training participants were given 100 to 300 mg of caffeine per dose, and the results were significant improvements in all performance categories, except for marksmanship, which was unaffected.
After quite a few stories of people's interaction with caffeine you get the general idea that it’s effects are generally known, but can rarely be predicted for a given individual from a particular source. We appear to be left on our own to experiment with the amount of caffeine that gets us the positive effect of greater alertness, energy, and endurance, while minimizing the negative effects of sleeplessness, gastric distress, etc.
There is some concern that people are unaware of the amount of caffeine in many products. People can get very high amounts of caffeine from different products during the course of the day. The author explores why the amount of caffeine is not required on all food labels. The FDA is the principal regulator of those labels and they have only okayed using caffeine in soft drinks, and that was in 1950. Caffeine can come from many different areas such as food, supplements, energy drinks, that can be consumed in many different ways. All this caffeine can add up to a rather large problem. There are many ways of adding caffeine so this is a rather large problem.
The book begins with a defining a few terms that we will encounter a few times throughout the rest of this review. The first is CDM - Caffeine Delivery Mechanisms, this includes any method ingesting caffeine whether it be natural or artificial form. The second is SCAD, Carpenter attempts to come up with s standard dose for comparison purposes: "In an effort to make this easier, I came up with a measure called a Standard Caffeine Dose, or a SCAD. A SCAD is seventy-five milligrams. This is a handy standard, roughly equal to a shot of espresso, 150ml of coffee, a 250ml can of Red Bull, two 350ml cans of Coke or Pepsi, a 500ml bottle of Mountain Dew, or a pint of Diet Coke (which has higher caffeine concentrations than Coke)." p.XV. Carpenter has gone on a journey through the different CDM's available both at home and abroad. He has also travelled across the USA, Canada and around the world in pursuit of this story. He has sampled raw China White Caffeine, had coffee that was picked dried and roasted on the fame he was visiting, pursued companies, scientists, the FDS and other agencies involved with the business of keeping us amped up and going hard. Carpenter has looked at everything from traditional coffee, loose leaf tea, mate, Coca-Cola, Monster, 5-hour Energy, Green Mountain, K-Cups, clif shot blocks, gu, Starbucks and more.
One of the biggest problems that Carpenter encounter and is left unresolved is that Caffeine is many things to many people. It is marketed as a stimulant, a food, a beverage, a diet supplement and a medication. In fact the addition of Caffeine in Coca-Cola lead to a trial between the U.S. Government and Coke when Coke was charged with: "with violating the Pure Food and Drugs Act by adulterating their beverage with a harmful ingredient: caffeine." p. 81 In 1909. That Caffeine was a product of Monsanto. Monsanto's involvement with Coke starts as early as 1905 when the company produced caffeine for Coke. During the trial Coke paid for the first major study of the impact of Caffeine on human's. But Coke changed their tactics stating Caffeine was a flavor ingredient and essential to the product. And the judge ruled in their favor. And the tension between what has now become the FDA and purveyors of caffeinated drinks had begun; and still swells and ebbs today. From that early history Carpenter takes us on a journey both around the world and through the research and helps us draw our own conclusions about the most socially acceptable of drugs.
The book has some staggering facts and trivia. The first that caught my attention was that Eight of the top 10 soft drinks in the Us contain caffeine. "Coca-Cola , Pepsi and Dr Pepper Snapple, Americans import more than fifteen million pounds of powdered caffeine annually. That's enough to fill three hundred 40-foot (12-metre) shipping containers. Imagine a freight train two miles long, each carriage loaded to the brim with psychoactive powder." p. 97 And there is still a plant in Texas that decaffeinates coffee and exports in's caffeine. But other than that almost all caffeine production is abroad.
In a chapter focused on athletics especially first person accounts of plans and strategies for the Kona Iron Man it becomes obvious that no two athletes plane and caffeinate alike. Each has a personal plan but they vary drastically, from some who avoid caffeine except in competition to those who use regularly and really push the limits for competitions, to a few who barely use it as an enhancement. Researchers into caffeine and performance athletes concluded: "They concisely synopsized the challenges of using caffeine well: It can motivate you and improve your performance, but it is also addicting. In other words, use it to train, use it to race, but use it judiciously." p.146 But even with that there is a footnote that many sports or governing bodies still have limits of how much caffeine an athlete can have in their system and not get disqualified, and other sports have just begun to ignore this specific drug altogether.
In a chapter on Joe for GI's - caffeine and the military life there is a fascinating quote from a military briefing dating to 1896 for the Secretary of War: "'A chemical substance which stimulates brain, nerves and muscles, is a daily necessity and is used by every single nation.' And ''When there is fatigue and the food is diminished such a stimulant is indispensable, and must be an ingredient of every reserve and emergency ration.' More than a century ago, military leaders were trying to figure out how to keep soldiers revved up." p. 165 The military even has a special division at Natick that works on foods and beverages that are caffeinated for soldiers in the field. From caffeine fortified beef jerky, applesauce, tube foods that tastes like pudding. And the first caffeinated gum in production was for the military. Stay alert gum had a dose of 100 milligrams per stick of gum coming in at a SCAD and a third per stick or 6.6 SCAD's for the pack of 5. Zapplesauce - caffeinated Apple sauce has 110 milligrams of caffeine. And more all developed for the fighting soldier and some have trickled out to the general population. Later in the book coming back to the military in summarizing a recent study on military caffeine consumption Carpenter states: "The older soldiers are still drinking more coffee and taking more caffeine than the young males. But the young men, those soldiers from eighteen to twenty-four, get more caffeine from energy drinks than coffee." p. 224 and for the first time energy drinks has replaced coffee as the primary DCM for a specific age group.
Doing some comparison between the FDA south of the border and it's wavering's in dealing with Caffeine especially in energy drinks and new CDM's Carpenter draws from a Canadian source. Quoting a 2010 Canadian Medical Association Journal "'Energy drinks are very effective high-concentration caffeine delivery systems,' the editors wrote. They also said, 'Caffeine-loaded energy drinks have now crossed the line from beverages to drugs delivered as tasty syrups.'" p.211 and regulations around these products vary depending on how they are being marketed and where they are being marketed. Carpenter comes back to Coca-Cola, Monster, 5 hour Energy again and again. But then he turn's his focus on Starbucks. Specifically Starbucks as the all-around CDM provider, coffee, tea, energy drinks and more. "Starbucks stands out among modern caffeine traders. It has developed an internationally recognized brand, a vast network of cafés and a fast-growing line of ready-to-drink caffeinated beverages. It's got tea wrapped up, too, with its Tazo and Teavana lines (it spent $620 million for the latter in late 2012). It mass-markets roasted-and-ground coffees in supermarkets and has its lowbrow Seattle's Best Coffee in bags" p.231 Starbucks offer's it all, from Refreshers which "Starbucks is making a promise that sounds utterly bizarre for the company that brought bold, rich, dark-roasted coffee to the masses: "No coffee flavor. I promise," Starbucks's Brian Smith says on its Web site. "Just a refreshing break from the roasty norm." p.233 So all the caffeine benefits with no taste. A long way from Coca-Cola stating Caffeine was essential for the flavor of the product.
The penultimate quote I would like to leave you with is: "The beverage industry is not fumbling in the dark here; they are dialling in to optimal caffeination to keep consumers coming back. Consider the specificity of a 2005 coffee-drink patent from industry giant Nestlé. 'Controlled Delivery of Caffeine from High-Caffeinated Coffee Beverages Made from Soluble Powder' details the steps for blending coffee powder and natural caffeine. And Nestlé described it in terms of the intended metabolic effect: 'Thus, a beverage can be prepared that contains at least 80 to no more than 115mg caffeine such that consumption of a single serving of the beverage by a person provides a plasma caffeine level in the person that is above 1.25mg/l for at least 2 to 4 hours following consumption of the beverage.' You read that right - the beverage formulators are blending caffeine powder and coffee with the goal of hitting your ideal 'plasma caffeine level'."p.235 And with that carpenter nail's it on the head. The vendors and manufacturer's know what they are doing, whether they are skirting the law or just ignoring it there are numerous examples of companies pushing the limits. But all of that was predicted over 100 year ago Emil Fischer was a German chemist and in 1902 he won the Novel Prize for synthesis of caffeine in a lab in 1895. In a short extract from an extended quote of Emil's words "It is even possible to produce the true aroma of coffee or tea artificially, too, by synthesis; with the exercise of a little imagination the day can be foreseen when beans will no longer be required to make good coffee: a small amount of powder from a chemical works together with water will provide a savoury, refreshing drink surprisingly cheaply." p.237. Where Emil predicted what would happen with beverages Carpenter predicts we have only seen the beginning the perfect CDM has yet to hit the market but some scientist in a home lab, or working for a giant like Monsanto or Starbucks is working on it now. But what will its ultimate impact be?
This was a fascinating book. I had a hard time putting it down. And find myself talking about it constantly. I am also thinking about the studies, science and personal stories of caffeine helping and hurting people in their day to day life's, including a few deaths attributed to caffeine toxicity. I can only suggest that you read the book and let the dialogue begin!
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