28 October 2013

Death by caffeinated candy

As reported in The Independent:
A man died from an enormous caffeine overdose after snacking on high-energy mints - each of which is as powerful as a can of Red Bull...

Mr Jackson was a heavy drinker and had cirrhosis of the liver which would have limited his liver’s ability to process toxins but it was the caffeine overdose that killed him, the pathologist said...

Birkenhead-based Hero Energy said that it highlighted the risk with prominent warnings on packaging and shelves. In a statement, directors Paul Hayes and Steve Hones said they “fully understand” the dangers and risks of caffeine and that the packs advise no more than five be consumed in 24 hours.

The inquest was not told how many Mr Jackson ate but the manufacturers said that he would have had to have eaten “over 300 of our mints, which is staggering” to have the levels of caffeine he had in his blood.
Presumably the estimation of 300-mint consumption was based on normal hepatic metabolism, which would not have been applicable in this case.

Photo via The Mail Online.

1 comment:

  1. Let's see here. The caffeine content is 82 mg/mint (somewhat less than a cup of coffee. I use that example instead because red bull is new and hip with the kids and people seem to have an unreasonable fear of it even though it contains about 20% less caffeine per oz than coffee.)

    The generally accepted LD50 for caffeine is about 192 mg/kg. The average British male masses in at about 84 kg.

    So to reach the LD50 he would need to consume about 16,128 mg or 197 mints.

    It could begin to get dangerous before that, so call it 100 mints (8200 mg) to be on the safe side.

    According to this each tin contains 12 mints or 984 mg of caffeine. So to reach 100 mints you would need to consume more than 8 tins.

    This site proposes that as little as 3000 mg may be fatal in some individuals which would be 36 mints or 3 full tins.

    None of this takes into account the liver's ability to metabolize caffeine, just to reach a fatal dose in the first place. Although prolonged exposure (due to it not being cleared by the liver) may be more dangerous.

    I don't know of a good way to convert mg/kg doses to the "mg per liter of blood" doses mentioned in the article. But in either case simple conservation of mass indicates that he can't have had *more* caffeine in his system than he consumed, even if his liver didn't clear any of it.

    Ah, here is a nice Science Alert article that mentions that he would only be expected to have ~10-20 mg per liter of blood based on consuming a package of mints. It also tracks with the calculations above that concluded that no less than three tins would be needed to get him into the bottom range of the toxic dosage.


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