Effect Measure

One donut, black

I am going through the latest mathematical model papers on the spread of influenza on the air travel network and another on antiviral resistance, both published last week in PLoS Medicine. It’s taking me a while. They are not instant reads and I am busy at work. The air travel paper by Colizza et al. sent me back to the authors’ previous papers for additional details and then I wanted to sort out the many tiny errors that inevitably creep into long technical papers (the antiviral paper by Lipsitch et al. remarkably had only one, a wrong subscript). So a fuller post is for another day, and maybe I’ll never get it done. Or maybe it will be an ambitious multipart primer on modeling. Much depends on the pesky day job.

Meanwhile, it’s the first thing in the morning, and time to fortify yourself with some coffee and donuts. Or just a donut. What follows is the kind of story I file under, “It wouldn’t surprise me a bit,” cross-classified under “still on the drawing boards and likely never to see the light of day,” with a sub-category of “possibly bogus.” You decide:

That cup of coffee just not getting it done anymore? How about a Buzz Donut or a Buzzed Bagel? That’s what Doctor Robert Bohannon, a Durham, North Carolina, molecular scientist, has come up with. Bohannon says he’s developed a way to add caffeine to baked goods, without the bitter taste of caffeine. Each piece of pastry is the equivalent of about two cups of coffee.

While the product is not on the market yet, Bohannon has approached some heavyweight companies, including Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks about carrying it. (Salon)

The big issue here, as I see it, is public safety: overcaffeinated and armed police.


  1. #1 g510
    January 30, 2007

    No, the problem is the spiking of unlabeled food products with psychoactive drugs that are arguably addictive and have health risks.

    It used to be simple to identify products with caffein: coffee, tea, cola. Then it got into orange soda: Sunkist. Then it got into root beer (I can’t recall the brand offhand). Then it got into all manner of non-carbonated beverages. Now it’s in solid foods that could be served to the unsuspecting without any kind of labels or warning (e.g. the tray of donuts in the office or classroom). What next, dose up the public water supply?

    Caffein is chemically a couple of clicks away from speed. Some of us avoid the stuff like plague because it gives us all manner of unpleasant effects. But here, lurking in a donut of all places, is a dose sufficient to give the uninitiated a panic attack or at least insomnia. Even for the addict, er uh aficionado, two cups of coffee in a day plus two of these donuts equals six cups of coffee per day equivalent, i.e. a substantially elevated risk of heart attack.

    I wonder what you’d be saying if these donuts were spiked with nicotine?

    Hey now, that’s an idea. Hold on a minute while I call my patent lawyer…

  2. #2 g510
    January 30, 2007

    To clarify one point. I have no problem with people putting whatever they choose into their own bodies. Consenting adults, informed choices, etc.

    I have a MAJOR problem with common foods being spiked with psychoactive drugs: when these products are served up without appropriate disclosures (e.g. the mixed tray of donuts at work or school), as they violate the principle of consent and informed choice.

    The way to handle this is to require some kind of labeling that is intrinsic to the product itself, for example make it taste like strong coffee, or put some kind of design into the frosting such as the letter C for caffein or a distinct brand name that is clearly identifyable as representing a caffeinated product.

    And while we’re at it, selling caffeinated products to minor children is equivalent to selling them cigarettes. That includes the ubiquitous soda drinks. Caffein is arguably a gateway drug. The age of access for that stuff ought to be 18. And please let’s not hear any rationalizations along the lines that it’s not such a strong drug after all (it is) or that everyone does it (some of us don’t). Remember, they used to say the same thing about cigarettes.

  3. #3 G in INdiana
    January 30, 2007

    My Mormon neighbors are going to go nuts unless this stuff is labeled. Their one addiction is sugar, in cakes, pies, donuts, and candy. They can’t drink, smoke or use any other narcotic type drugs so they eat sugar like crazy. We won’t talk about jello…

  4. #4 Floormaster Squeeze
    January 30, 2007

    G510: Barq (owned by Coca-Cola) puts caffeine into their soda.

    If you have ever tried caffeinated mints or gum you will notice a distinctly unpleasant bitter taste from the caffeine. So while I have no difficulty believing that someone would want to put caffeine into donuts and bagels, I do have some trouble believing that he can sufficiently mask the nasty bitter taste.

    I am personally a no-caffeine person but I am curious about new products. A few years ago topical caffeine (absorbed through the skin) was all the rage and they were even testing it for other beneficial properties. I assume that because we have not heard about it that those studies did not show it cured cancer or stimulated body parts that you want stimulated sufficiently.

  5. #5 traumatized
    January 30, 2007

    Yea, but who eats in the morning?

    “Coffee black, cigarettes,
    start this day, like all the rest…”
    -from Some Broken Hearts Never Mend by Don Williams

  6. #6 M. Randolph Kruger
    January 30, 2007

    Dunkin Donuts is about to become a controlled substance. Speedy donuts… Hmmmm.

    Five donuts and you would likely be a candidate for a psychotic episode.

  7. #7 Lea
    January 30, 2007

    Overcaffeinated and armed police you say. Is it a stigma that has been attached to them or is it really true? I don’t know.

    As far as coffee goes it takes a fair amount of pesticides to grow coffee plants. And of course, organic is another issue many coffee growers have taken an interest in. Cannabis is a natural deterrent to insects. Would be good to see it decriminalized and legal for farmers to use.

    In support of coffee: One fairly consistent finding has been the reduction of diabetes mellitus type 2 in coffee consumers, an association that cannot be explained by the caffeine content alone and indeed may be stronger in decaffeinated coffee.

    Recently, coffee was found to reduce the chances of developing cirrhosis of the liver: the consumption of 1 cup a day was found to reduce the chances by 20%, and 4 cups a day reduced the chances by 80%.

    Economically, after oil, coffee is the highest-valued (legal) commodity traded from the developing world, with world coffee exports valued at $11.2 billion in 1999.

  8. #8 revere
    January 30, 2007

    Lea: It was a humorous comment, but for the record, I am a drinker of very, very strong coffee and my brother-in-law is a police officer. The propensity of police to frequent donut shops world wide I take as a fact, not a prejudice.

  9. #9 Lea
    January 30, 2007

    I am beginning to catch on to your particular style.

  10. #10 g510
    January 30, 2007

    Re. Floormaster Squeeze: You may have missed this in the article itself: “Bohannon says he’s developed a way to add caffeine to baked goods, without the bitter taste of caffeine.”

    If they mask the bitter taste of the compound, you don’t know you’re getting dosed. You can’t take a bite and go “eww” and stop right there. You gobble the whole thing down, and hey that tasted good let’s have one or two more!, and next thing you know you’re having a white-knuckle panic attack and think you’re losing your mind because you can’t think of anything you could have done to bring it on. Prediction: for people who are already suffering from panic disorder, that scenario is going to lead to suicides. Ask anyone you know who has panic disorder or knows about it in any detail.

    Not to mention cardiac patients! “Aw hell, one little donut isn’t going to hurt…” Boom! How about people on certain medications that interact with caffein? How about recovering speed addicts who are trying to avoid all stimulants? How about pregnant women? How about the person who eats a donut after dinner, ends up unable to sleep at night, goes to work the next day as a heavy equipment operator or some other job where alertness is essential, and is spaced-out from not having slept, and has an accident that maims or kills someone? How about people with bipolar disorder, being pushed into dysphoric mania phase?

    How’bout your six-year-old kid? Anyone care to guess what two of those donuts i.e. four cups of coffee equivalent, would do to a child? Anyone here want to try feeding four cups of coffee to their own kid and get back to us about the results?

    As I said, let’s try this with nicotine. One donut equals what you’d get from smoking one cigarette. Hardly enough to get an overdose even from eating a bunch of ’em in a row. And hardly enough to develop any kind of overt addiction. Hey, I even have a brand name in mind: call ’em “Smoke Rings.” There, the product name discloses the contents too!

    Revere, I’m asking you specifically: Where do you stand on foods spiked with drugs that aren’t clearly labeled? And if you’re OK with caffein in common foods, how’bout nicotine?

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