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Warning over caffeinated chewing gum

Friday May 29th, 2009

Italian doctors warn today of the dangers of stimulant chewing gums containing caffeine.

Dr Francesco Natale of Monaldi Hospital, Naples, Italy, and colleagues report on a 13 year old boy who was hospitalised after excessive consumption.

Their Case Report, published in the Lancet, states that the boy was taken by his parents to the emergency department after becoming agitated and aggressive. He had abdominal discomfort, increased and painful urination, and prickling sensations in his legs.

On examination, he was restless, with raised heartbeat, rapid breathing and raised blood pressure, but normal chest scans and blood tests. His condition improved overnight without treatment and he was discharged the next morning.

"Later that day, his mother returned to the emergency unit with two empty packets of stimulant ('energy') chewing gum that she had found in her son's bag," the authors write. He admitted consuming it all within a four-hour period.

The gum contained 160mg caffeine per packet, so two packs would contain slightly more than three regular cups of coffee (at 100mg per cup). The boy did not usually ingest caffeine-rich beverages or food.

A few days later, he attended an outpatient appointment where he appeared sleepy and sluggish, with slow heartbeat, and had not returned to school. After a further five days he had fully recovered.

The diagnosis was "caffeine intoxication", say the doctors. The use of stimulant chewing gum should be considered in similar cases, because "the risk of intoxication is high in children and teenagers in view of general caffeine-naivety, and the unrestricted sale of these substances", they conclude.

Natale, F. et al. When chewing gum is more than just a bad habit. The Lancet, Vol. 373, May 30, 2009, p. 1918.

Tags: A&E | Child Health | Drug and Alcohol Abuse | Europe | Nutrition & Healthy Eating

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