January 2013

Many Caffeine Supplements May Have Misleading Labels

A new study suggests that supplements containing caffeine may have misleading labels.

Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound found in the leaves, seeds, or fruits of more than 60 plants, including coffee beans, cacao beans, kola nuts, guarana berries and tea leaves. Caffeine is consumed regularly in the United States and throughout the world. It is found in many beverages, including coffee, chocolate, some energy drinks, and tea.

In people, caffeine may be useful to stimulate the heart and increase urine flow. Caffeine has been shown to affect mood, endurance, the brain, and blood vessels, as well as activity in both the stomach and colon. Caffeine has also been marketed as a weight loss tool and is often included in various weight loss supplements.

In the recent study, researchers chose 31 of the most popular caffeine supplements sold as capsules, purchased from a supplement retail store. Researchers quantified the amount of caffeine in the capsules, using high-pressure liquid chromatography.

Out of the 31 supplements, only 20 products listed caffeine as an ingredient. Of the 20 supplements listing caffeine, six products did not include the amount of caffeine and five products included an inaccurate amount of caffeine.

The eleven products that did not have caffeine on the label instead listed herbs that naturally contain caffeine, such as green tea extract. Laboratory analysis showed that these eleven products had minimal amounts of caffeine, ranging from zero to three milligrams.

The researchers concluded that more accurate labeling of caffeine levels should be provided on supplements.

For more information about caffeine, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Cohen PA, Attipoe A, Travis J, et al. Caffeine Content of Dietary Supplements Consumed on Military Bases. JAMA Intern Med. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.3254.
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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