If youve ever wondered whether your favorite coffee, tea or soda contains caffeine despite its decaf label or the absence of caffeine on the ingredient list then you may soon be able to test the beverage yourself. Chemists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are developing a quick, convenient "dipstick" test that they say could represent the first home testing kit to detect the common stimulant, which can cause insomnia and make you jittery. Their study will appear in the June 1 print issue of the American Chemical Societys Analytical Chemistry.
"We envisioned that a simple method to measure caffeine, even in hot beverages, such as coffee, would be of value to individuals and institutions wanting to verify the absence of caffeine," says study leader Jack H. Ladenson, Ph.D., a chemist at the university. "This will greatly assist individuals who wish to avoid caffeine."
Ladenson hopes to develop a simple caffeine test in which test strips that are treated with a specific antibody will react by changing color in the presence of caffeine.
The new test will be designed to be qualitative only: It allows a person to quickly determine whether caffeine is present, but does not indicate the exact amount or concentration of caffeine. In preliminary tests using coffee and cola, an experimental version of the test effectively distinguished caffeinated versions of these products from their decaf counterparts, Ladenson says.
The researcher adds that he does not know when the test will be available to consumers or at what price. Further refinements are ongoing, he says.
Many consumers are increasingly trying to avoid caffeine due to unwanted health effects, including insomnia and irritability. Several studies have linked an increase in caffeine consumption with a higher risk of miscarriage among pregnant women. For years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has specifically advised pregnan
Contact: Michael Bernstein
American Chemical Society