Coffee consumption with consequences: caffeine discovered in blood reserves

Coffee consumption with consequences: caffeine discovered in blood reserves

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Active ingredients from coffee, cough syrup and tranquilizers found in preserved blood

Especially in the dark season, many people need their morning coffee. The caffeine kick gives them the energy they need to start the day motivated. How widespread coffee consumption is actually in the western world, researchers at Oregon State University have now more or less found out by chance when examining preserved blood.

The researchers actually wanted to find out how the use of herbal remedies affects the metabolism of medication in the human body. To do this, they developed a new method that was to prove itself in a series of tests. In their study, the researchers examined 18 blood samples and found caffeine not only in all samples - in many of them, active substances from cough syrup and sedatives were also detectable.

What is the new investigation method for?

The new test method includes, among other things, ultra-high pressure liquid chromatography and rapid protein precipitation. In the future, it will be used in clinical studies in which the participants take a mix of different medicines, supplemented by a herbal ingredient made from hops, licorice or red clover. The method can be used to show whether one of the drugs is metabolized differently than normal by the plant active ingredients.

"It can be a real problem if someone takes a herbal product and prescription medication at the same time," explains Richard van Breemen, who conducted the study with his colleague Luying Chen. This raises the question of what interactions then occur between these two. "This is not straightforward or absolutely predictable, so methods are needed to observe this interaction. The strange thing in this case was finding all this contaminated blood, ”emphasizes van Breemen.

What do the results mean regarding the safety of preserved blood?

Although this was not the real goal of their research, Chen and van Breemen's test series raised new questions about possible risks of blood supplies. The researchers were surprised that not a single sample was free of caffeine and that most of them also contained other active ingredients.

Two test subjects had to be consulted who undertook to avoid caffeinated foods and medicines a few days before the blood test. This was the only way to be able to use "pure" blood for comparison.

Active substances in many blood samples

If you receive donor blood containing caffeine, this usually does not pose any danger. With the other proven active ingredients from cough syrup and sedatives, things may look different. The blood samples were only tested for a few substances. So it is likely that many blood samples contain active ingredients from other medications. Depending on the medication the recipient of the blood bank is taking, unpredictable interactions could occur.

The series of tests by van Breemen and Chen may also have unforeseen “side effects”: it raises the question of whether it is necessary to examine blood products more thoroughly than before or to test them for other ingredients.

The blood tested came from canned blood banks. The study was published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis. (kh)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Magistra Artium (M.A.) Katja Helbig


  • Oregon State University: We love coffee, tea, chocolate and soft drinks so much, caffeine is literally in our blood (accessed: November 26, 2019),
  • Chen, Luying, van Breemen, Richard: Validation of a Sensitive UHPLC-MS / MS Method for Cytochrome P450 Probe Substrates Caffeine, Tolbutamide, Dextromethorphan, and Alprazolam in Human Serum Reveals Drug Contamination of Serum Used for Research; in: Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, 2019, ScienceDirect

Video: 4 Side Effects of Too Much Caffeine (January 2023).