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    Synthetic Caffeine? A New Marketing Gimmick For Organic Food
    By Hank Campbell | March 7th 2012 10:10 PM | 22 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    If you're an anti-science hippie obsessed with the notion that 'natural' is always superior to whatever 'inorganic' means to people who know nothing about science or medicine or food or generally what carbon-based life means, I have good news for you; you may soon be able to determine if that caffeine in your Organic, Free-Range Red Bull is really natural.

    What? Organic, Free-Range Red Bull doesn't exist?  Well, it should. Farmer's Market shoppers will dutifully line up for that, I can just feel it.

    Caffeine drinks are big business. Coffee, tea, sodas, it's all doing brisk sales, even in a recession  But how will health-conscious consumers drinking all-natural carbonated, sugary beverages know if the caffeine in it is really natural?  Evil Big Business is only required by Super Awesome Regulations to list that caffeine is in the stuff, you know, an ingredient - not its country of origin or that the caffeine was stimulated by Fair Trade co-ops. What if the caffeine is synthetic? Your health could be at risk.

    Compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA) can differentiate between natural and synthetic caffeine and a new test described in Analytical Chemistry uses differences in the kinds of carbon isotopes found in caffeine made by plants and that of caffeine made in labs.  Sounds obscure, right? Yes, but you don't want your No Fear Energy Drink made with petroleum-derived molecular building blocks, after all - even if you don't know what that means. Their analysis used 42 natural caffeine samples and 20 synthetic ones. Using high-temperature reversed-phase liquid chromatography coupled to isotope ratio mass spectrometry they found four products that contained synthetic caffeine, despite having a "natural" label.

    BUSTED!




    Though, really, if you are buying 'natural food' all year round, you can be forgiven for being gullible enough to believe your caffeine is all natural too. Is there any difference between synthetic and natural caffeine?  None at all but you are buying labels, not science validity, so you should at least get what you overpay for.

    Might I suggest you drink your Naturally Caffeinated Coffee - or beer or caffeinated soap or any caffeinated product you want, really - from one of these? The compound on the mug will make you feel better about your science knowledge.



    Citation: Lijun Zhang, Dorothea M. Kujawinski, Eugen Federherr, Torsten C. Schmidt, and Maik A. Jochmann, 'Caffeine in Your Drink: Natural or Synthetic?', Anal. Chem., Publication Date (Web): February 17, 2012 (Article) DOI: 10.1021/ac203197d

    Comments

    MikeCrow
    I prefer synthetic drugs, you get more of what you pay for.

    As for Red Bull, what people really ought to think about is how the owner can afford to fund 2 Formula one teams, MotoGP riders, Moto-X riders, and teams on just about every other type of racing (planes, boats and cars) on the planet.

    Oh, and how do I know that formula is organic?????
    Never is a long time.
    Your joking right? Just the fact that synthetic caffeine is digested quicker than natural occurring caffeine or that it can be identified with the above mentioned test is the only argument I need of many that they are not the same. Is it bad for you? Great grant idea in my opinion. I am sure there is some money somewhere to get that one.

    More from the hip bashing is not what the science community needs, there is enough of that. Produce a decent science article not just a deadline piece.

    Hank
    We don't have deadlines, this is indy science media, not USA Today.  Replace 'caffeine' with banana and you can see how it is not a science or medical concern. If someone makes a banana that ripens/rottens quicker, are you going to be afraid of it?  Okay, if you are that is your choice. It just has nothing to do with science.  As I said, being able to distinguish synthetic caffeine from 'natural' will sell a lot at Whole Foods, it will just make zero difference in anyone's health. 
    MikeCrow
    You know those different isotopes are bad!

    Were do people come up with this?
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    "Why Organic Electrons Are Bad For You - The Science Answer" can be my next article.
    MikeCrow
    You'd make a lot more money selling organic electrons....
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    Good point. "Why Organic Electrons Are Bad Better For You - The Science Answer" can be my next article.
    MikeCrow
    And I only want a reasonable 1% cut of gross..........
    Never is a long time.
    You/The Guy wrote this article. Please stop and think before you open your mouth or start writing your opinion.

    Hank
    So, you seriously think there is a difference between 'natural' and synthetic caffeine?  What if we create water in a lab?  
    Drink 1 one and drink the other the next and tell me if you feel a difference. There is a distinct difference between the two. Synthetic caffein is addicting like most processed foods and this if why we have such a health crisis in the U.S. We make our foods in a lab and wonder why we have such obesity when other countries label or ban gmo products and have nothing near the obesity we have. Let me also mention that they are finding gmos cause brain damage. So yes I do think/know there is a difference but I'm glad your volunteering to be the lab rat now so I don't have to be.

    Hank
    Let me also mention that they are finding gmos cause brain damage.
    I'd love to see this research.  Obesity does not occur because of synthetic caffeine, it occurs because people eat too much. 
    And to answer your question about the water.. When we do make water in a lab, by reverse osmosis or other processes we leave out vital minerals that raise the ph level so yes there is a difference no matter how simple you may think water is. So again I must say think and do a little bit of research before you express your opinion. You are diluting the great information out there on the internet with your amateur and ignorant articles with no scientific backing other than the study that proves nothing but companies are lying about labeling their products. So hate on those companies and not the organic movement

    MikeCrow
    Do you know what water is?
    And do you know what a reverse osmosis filter does?

    I suggest you learn a little chemistry.
    Never is a long time.
    Reverse osmosis is the process of making drinking water. He/she doesn't need to learn chemistry because you misunderstood or wanted to sound smart.

    Gerhard Adam
    Actually you should read more carefully.  The poster clearly said "make water", not make "drinking water" or "purifying water". 

    In any case, it should be obvious that filtering water doesn't modify the water.  So the original poster is clearly mis-stating what occurs.

    Specifically the point is that minerals have nothing to do with "making water".
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    Then you don't really understand what it does either.

    You're not making water, you're filtering impurities out of water.

    Is pure water bad for you?
    Never is a long time.
    Wow did you even read what I wrote? I think the brain damage has already taken effect. I was saying that it was addicting and relating it to the foods we eat that are not natural. I never said caffein causes obesity.

    Gerhard Adam
    Let me translate Hank's sarcasm.  He used that phrase to indicate that obesity from synthetic caffeine was as likely as brain damage.

    It doesn't really sound like you know what synthetic means.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Natural and synthetic caffeine are almost the same in their effect. Their main difference is in their manufacturing process. Natural caffeine is likely extracted from a natural source such as coffee beans or tea leaves and then it can be added to the water (naturally caffeinated water).

    Synthetic caffeine is produced in a laboratory and is basically the same substance as natural caffeine as they have identical chemical structures. Both provide a similar effect on your body.

    Hank
    Sure. Like buying an organic pineapple, it is just marketing and these guys basically affirm it.  People who want 'natural' should be able to get it - but it makes no difference in health.

    The natural movement seems to have limits.  Starbucks wanted to get rid of artificial dye so they replaced it with completely organic (and long used) bugs to color their Starbucks Frappuccino.  But people complained.  There's fashionably organic and then there is actually living that way and the second one is just icky.
    I agree. Labeling things as organic is just a way to increase prices to the consumer. At one point I fell for the whole organic scam, but then I did my own research and found that there is little difference in food labeled as organic. People are just being ripped off. It's more of a trend then anything. Most likely if someone feels better while eating foods labeled as organic; they are experiencing a placebo effect.