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Our Health

March 17, 2014

Is getting your daily ‘shot’ of caffeine OK?

Can’t live without your daily dose of caffeine? I know many people who will go out of the way just to grab a fresh cup of Joe or any caffeine shot to jump start their day or combat that afternoon lull.

Sometimes, that hot coffee isn’t readily available (where’s the Starbucks when you need one). That’s why Massachusetts company Breathable Foods Inc. believes its new pocket-sized, inhalable caffeine shot may just be the answer. Called “AreoShot Pure Energy,” it delivers your caffeine in a single breath.

According to the product information, AeroShot also contains B vitamins with the caffeine and delivers energy immediately when the powder is inhaled through the mouth and then swallowed. The company states that each puff contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine, equivalent to one large cup of coffee; and that each $2.99 vial (small plastic tube the size of lipstick) contains up to six puffs.

The product was first developed for consumers in Paris, France, but was released as a supplement in two markets last year: Boston and New York. It is now available in many locations, including online markets.

While the product seems like a perfect solution for those caffeine addicts who cannot go without their Java, it has fallen under scrutiny by U.S. health officials, including the Food and Drug Administration. Just a few months after its release in the United States, health authorities said they believe the product may be mislabeled and potentially unsafe. Because the product is being marketed as a dietary supplement, it is not regulated by the FDA; however, the FDA still provided a review and warning letter to the company.

First, the FDA mentioned that there is no product that can be both inhaled and ingested because of the functioning of the epiglottis, which keeps inhaling and swallowing as two separate bodily functions. If inhaled into the lungs, caffeine can cause significant health problems, particularly in the respiratory system. Research has shown that ground coffee is light enough to become airborne, and thus, is considered particulate matter. The health impact of inhaling particulates, even when they are chemically less toxic such as coffee grounds, can produce negative health issues because the particles can deposit deep into the lungs.

While most people think of engine exhaust and factory smoke as the root of all particulate matter, any foreign object found in the lungs is considered particulate matter and can significantly affect breathing capacity. Furthermore, one study found that inhaling caffeine is associated with abnormal psychiatric behaviors in people with mental health issues. In healthy individuals, inhaled caffeine had mild effects. Long-term effects of caffeine inhalation have yet to be determined.

In the meantime, the consensus is that inhaling coffee — or anything that could deposit a foreign object into the bronchi — is not safe.

Second, the product may entice teen users. AeroShot’s website indicates the product is not recommended for people under age 18, however, the product label itself states “not intended for people under 12.” While the intent may be there, the purchase can still be made by teens and youth.

If you are thinking about trying such a product, you may want to rethink your strategy. If you have children and teens at home, you might want to have that discussion about the negatives effects of inhaling any foreign substance.

Nina Bell, Ph.D., MPH, is a public health professor with Ashford University and works in health promotions for the Meadville Family YMCA. She is a co-author of the book “Community and Public Health,” published by Bridgepoint Education Inc. You can email her at nina@w2w4life.com.

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