A Kyushu man in his 20s died last year from caffeine intoxication after drinking large quantities of caffeinated beverages daily over a long period to fight fatigue, researchers at Fukuoka University said.
Although something, possibly part of a caffeine pill, was extracted from his stomach, his death was most likely caused by consuming too many caffeinated drinks, according to the university’s forensic medicine faculty.
Because there was no sign of a deliberate overdose, the man’s death was considered accidental.
According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, it is apparently the first reported case in Japan of a fatal caffeine overdose caused by the consumption of drinks.
“We had never heard of fatal caffeine intoxication,” the ministry said.
The man apparently consumed caffeinated soft drinks in large quantities to stay awake.
A company that sells one such product has warned against drinking large amounts of the beverage in a short period of time, and to avoid consuming the product along with alcohol, which can cause side effects.
More than a dozen lethal cases of caffeine poisoning have been reported in the United States, where drinks containing high amounts of caffeine are readily available.
While the government has set no criteria for acceptable intake levels, some experts had speculated that there could be similar deaths in Japan.
According to the Food Safety Commission, an arm of the Cabinet Office, a healthy adult should generally avoid drinking more than three cups of coffee a day, while a child between 4 and 6 years old should consume no more than a single 350-ml can of cola.
According to the Fukuoka University forensic medicine faculty, the man was working at a 24-hour gas station from midnight until dawn. After finishing a shift, he would stay awake until the following evening and then sleep until it was time to go to work again.
He often consumed an energy drink containing caffeine and had experienced vomiting several times in the year prior to his death, a symptom of caffeine intoxication.
On the day he died, he was sleeping after returning home and later vomited. He was sent to the hospital but died. It is uncertain what quantity of energy drinks he had consumed.
Shinichi Kubo, a professor of forensic medicine at the university, concluded that the man had died from a caffeine overdose and reported the results to the police after carrying out an examination.
While no other illness or abnormality was recognized, a small amount of alcohol was found in the man’s blood and a high concentration of caffeine was contained in his gastric residuals, blood and urine.
As there were no signs of foul play a legal autopsy could not be performed.
As a result, the university was unable to run an extensive study on part of a pill, apparently a caffeine tablet, found in his stomach and discover how it contributed to the man’s death.