The Buzz On Caffeine
How To Determine Caffeine Tolerance
Excessive caffeine consumption is not mathematical. It is individual. Caffeine sensitivity depends on the amount and frequency of consumption, body weight, physical condition and overall anxiety level among other factors. For most healthy adults, moderate amounts (100-200 milligrams (mg) per day, about 1-2 cups of coffee) pose no physical problems. The FDA has cited up to 400 mg per day may be considered safe for the majority of healthy adults.
Caffeine Content (in milligrams):
Drip-brewed coffee, 5 oz. 110-150 mg
Tea, 6 oz. (5-minute brew) 20-50 mg
Iced tea, 12 oz. 22-36 mg
Mountain Dew, 20 oz. 92 mg
Red Bull, 16 oz. 160 mg
Powershot, 1-2 fluid oz. bottle 100-125 mg
Barq’s Root Beer, 20 oz. 33 mg
Milk or dark chocolate, 1 oz. 1-35 mg
Monster Energy Drink, 16 oz. 160mg
Coca-cola, 12 oz. 54 mg
Diet Coke, 12 oz. 45 mg
Jolt gum, 1 stick 33 mg
Excedrin extra strength, 2 tabs 130 mg
Hot chocolate, 5 oz. 2-15 mg
Chocolate milk, 8 oz. 8 mg
Chocolate pudding & ice cream, 1 cup 2-7 mg
When in doubt, read the label. Make sure you figure the amount of caffeine in the portion you consume, as it is commonly listed per serving with multiple servings per container. Check websites for your favorite coffee shops. You might be surprised by how many calories and milligrams of caffeine some choices have.
How to Reduce Caffeine Consumption
Unfortunately – the overconsumption of caffeine can result in adverse effects such as: irritability, insomnia, headaches, fast heartbeat, nervousness and jitteriness. If you desire to reduce your caffeine consumption, decrease gradually over a 1-2 week period. Here are some tips:
- Mix half regular with decaffeinated coffee or tea.
- Drink decaffeinated coffee or herbal tea.
- Steep tea for a shorter time. A one-minute steep contains just half of a three-minute brew.
- Keep a cup of water alongside your caffeinated beverage and alternate sips to prevent mindless drinking.
- Check the label of your favorite soft drink to see if it contains caffeine and how much per serving (do the math) and choose caffeine free more often.
- Check the label of your over-the-counter medications, as some can contain as much as one or two cups of coffee in just one dose.
There are some brands of root beer that are caffeine-free, so are most lemon-lime sodas like Sprite and 7Up. Find a substitute beverage like water, sugar-free lemonade or fruit drink or a glass of milk (your bones will love it).
Osteoporosis and Caffeine
Does caffeine increase risk for conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer? At high levels (more than 744 mg per day), caffeine may increase calcium and magnesium loss in urine. But studies suggest it does not increase the risk for bone loss, especially if you get enough calcium. You can offset the calcium loss from drinking 1 cup of coffee by adding just 2 tablespoons (Tbsp) of milk. Older adults may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine on calcium metabolism. If you are an older woman, discuss with your doctor if you should limit your daily consumption.
Cardiovascular Disease and Caffeine
A slight, temporary rise in heart rate and blood pressure is common in those who are sensitive to caffeine. But several large studies do not link caffeine to higher cholesterol, irregular heartbeats or an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If you already have high blood pressure, have a discussion with your doctor about your daily intake. You may be more sensitive to its effects. Also, more research is needed to tell whether this increases the risk of stroke in people with high blood pressure.
Cancer and Caffeine
Reviews of 13 studies involving 20,000 people revealed no relationship between cancer and caffeine. In fact, caffeine may even have a protective effect against certain cancers.
How Safe is Caffeine During Pregnancy and use by Children?
Many studies show no links between low amounts of caffeine (1 cup of coffee per day) and any of the following: trouble conceiving, miscarriage, birth defects, premature death or low birth rate. The March of Dimes suggests fewer than 200 mg of caffeine intake per day for pregnant women.
As of 2004, children ages 6-9 consumed about 22 mg of caffeine per day. However, energy drinks have become increasingly popular. Studies suggest that up to 300 mg per day is safe for kids, BUT is it wise? Many kids have sensitivities and develop temporary anxiety or irritability with a post-drink ‘crash’. Also, sodas, energy drinks and sweetened teas chosen by children contain high levels of sugar, which increases risk of obesity. Caffeinated drinks are generally not the best beverage option for children.
Can Caffeine Sober you up?
No, research suggests that people only think caffeinated drinks help them sober up. The truth is, reaction time and judgment are impaired. So, drinking a bunch of coffee to ‘sober up’ and getting behind the wheel is not a good idea.
Does Caffeine have any Health Benefits?
Caffeine does have a few proven health benefits. Any regular coffee drinker will tell you that caffeine improves alertness, concentration, energy, clear-headedness and feelings of sociability. You might even be the type who needs that first cup of joe each morning before you say a single word. Scientific studies support these subjective findings. One French study even showed a slower decline in cognitive ability among women who consumed greater amounts of caffeine. Other possible benefits include improved immune function from caffeine’s anti-inflammatory effects and help with allergic reactions due to caffeine’s ability to reduce concentrations of histamines. While these research findings are interesting, further evidence and future studies are needed. Despite its potential benefits, don’t forget that high levels of caffeine may have adverse effects. More studies are needed to confirm both its benefits and potential risks.
So everything in moderation. Stay active and eat a balanced diet to help you feel your best.
Original post date: October, 2014. Revised March, 2022.