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Scientists working on at-home caffeine detection test

Posted On 2014 Aug 04
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Caffeine is being added to an increasing number of beverages and may be hiding in unexpected places. Scientists have developed a caffeine detection test. ©Artem & Olga Sapegin/Shutterstock.com

Caffeine is being added to an increasing number of beverages and may be hiding in unexpected places. Scientists have developed a caffeine detection test.
©Artem & Olga Sapegin/Shutterstock.com

(Relaxnews) – Aside from that morning cup of coffee, the average person consumes more caffeine on a daily basis than he or she realizes, as the common additive can be hiding in unexpected places, even in jelly beans. Now a research team may have laid the groundwork for a dipstick test for consumers to apply to their food and beverages.

Led by Mani Subramanian, the team, hailing from the University of Iowa, discovered that the enzyme called caffeine dehydrogenase is capable of detecting caffeine levels within one minute in most beverages, with the exception of tea.

Despite its fickleness when it came to tea, the enzyme was otherwise highly sensitive, detecting caffeine at concentrations as low as one to five parts per million.

The researchers say caffeine is now being added to more than 570 beverages and 150 food products including chewing gum and, yes, jelly beans.

It is also being sold in a pure powder form as a way for individuals to customize the caffeine content in their drinks, although few people are aware that consuming over 400 mg per day can lead to adverse health effects, say the researchers.

Among the consequences of excessive caffeine consumption are insomnia, hallucinations and vitamin deficiency, and it is not recommended during pregnancy or for nursing mothers.

Subramanian and his team say the enzyme could be used to create a dipstick test, which, due to the enzyme’s ability to detect caffeine at such light concentrations, could be particularly useful for nursing mothers, who could test their breast milk.

Coincidentally, one to five parts per million — the lowest concentration the enzyme can detest — is the maximum amount the FDA advises for breast milk to contain.

The study was published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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