Caffeine Gum Rattles Nerves of Health Experts

Wrigley's new Alert Energy Gum has half the caffeine of a cup of coffee. (Wrigley)

A cup of coffee or tea is a crucial morning ritual for many Americans. Now a new line of caffeinated gum is promising to sooth commuters on the run but is also raising concerns among health experts about the proliferation of such products.

Last month Wrigley announced they were introducing a caffeine-infused gum, called Alert Energy Gum.

With 40 mg of caffeine in every stick of gum, the Alert Energy Gum has the same amount of caffeine as approximately half a cup of coffee.

"This is something [consumers] can take with them and something that's a little bit discrete," said Jennifer Jackson-Luth, a Wrigley spokeswoman. "It can fit in their pocket."

In recent years caffeine has appeared in a wide array of products from lollipops to bottled water to shower soap. However, the rise of highly caffeinated products has raised concerns about the health risks, especially in energy drinks where caffeine doses can reach up to hundreds of milligrams per can.

Earlier this month a group of 18 doctors and public health experts petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to protect children and teens from highly caffeinated energy drinks, writing that, "Youth with higher caffeine intake commonly report troubling neurological symptoms, including nervousness, anxiety, jitteriness, and headache."

Dr. Donna Seger, executive director of the Tennessee Poison Center and professor of Clinical Medicine at Vanderbilt University, says 40 mg of caffeine per stick of gum is unlikely to sicken a teenager or adult, but a toddler could be affected if they manage to sneak a few too many sticks.

"The nervous system isn't developed till you're in your twenties," said Seger. "All of these stimulants can [affect an underdeveloped system.]"

Wrigley warns that the gum is not intended for children or those sensitive to caffeine and will be marketed to those over the age of 25.

As more caffeinated products come on the market, Seger says she expects that more people could become caffeine dependent and need a little extra jolt of energy to get through the day.

"If that [it] is a positive experience and you feel like it's something you want," said Seger of the caffeinated gum. "You're going to use it more and more frequently."