Wake up and Smell the Facts about Caffeine!

Dreaming of your next coffee? For many Americans, a day begins with a fresh cup of joe. Caffeine is the most popular brain stimulant in the world, helping many to stay active and awake throughout busy days. But how much is too much?

Popular sources of caffeine in America include coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and caffeine pills. A 12 oz cup of regular, black coffee provides about 150–270 mg of caffeine depending on the type of roast. Energy drinks contain the second highest amount of caffeine with 120–200 mg per 12 oz . Over-the-counter caffeine pills provide a 75–100 mg boost, while a 12 oz tea provides 40–80 mg. Caffeine-containing sodas are low sources, for example, a 12 oz cola contains 30–50 mg.

Caffeine influences the central nervous system, stimulating wakefulness. This effect increases concentration and decreases the sensation of fatigue. For endurance athletes, caffeine may improve performance and decrease exhaustion in sports such as cycling and running. Other benefits include its ability to enhance the speed of information processing and reaction time. Caffeine has also been found to assist in weight management.

But is it safe? It depends. Caffeine overload is achieved upon consuming 9–24 mg/lb, or about 6–7 12 oz coffees for a 140 lb person. This amount has been associated with undesirable effects including anxiety and jitteriness. Headache and fatigue are common withdrawal symptoms and can occur after long-term, high-dose use. Caffeine overload may also be characterized by nervousness, irritability, anxiety, sleeplessness, shakiness, irregular heartbeat, and upset stomach. Caffeine also promotes frequent urination, causing you to lose excess water and possibly become dehydrated throughout the day.

The safe levels of caffeine that promote desirable effects are listed below:

· Healthy Adults < 400 mg/day (2–3 12 oz cups of coffee)

· Pregnant Women < 300 mg/day (1–2 12 oz cups of coffee)

· Adolescents (15–17) < 100 mg/day (8 oz of an energy drink)

· Children (0–14) 1.13 mg/1lb/day (40 lb — 12 oz cola; 100 lb — ~ 24 oz. of cola)

Want to cut back? Drink the decaffeinated alternative of your favorite beverage, such as decaf coffee or tea. Try mixing half regular and half decaffeinated coffee/tea, or dilute caffeinated beverages with water. To prevent mindless caffeine drinking, alternate sips of water with your caffeinated beverage. Pay attention to over-the-counter medication labels and opt for the caffeine-free choice.

America’s favorite stimulant is safe in moderation, though may cause uncomfortable side effects when used in excess. Be mindful your family’s consumption to ensure experiencing the benefits of caffeine for years to come!


1. Heckman MA, Weil J, Mejia EGD. Caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters. J Food Sci. 2010;75(3):R77-R87.

2. Meredith SE, Juliano LM, Hughes JR, Griffiths RR. Caffeine use disorder: comprehensive review and research agenda. J Caffeine Res. 2013;3(3):114–130.

3. Seifert SM, Schaechter JL, Hershorin ER, Lipshultz SE. Health effects of energy drinks on children, adolescents, and young adults. Pediatrics. 2011;127:511–528.

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