Caffeine is naturally found in chocolate, coffee, and tea. In moderation, caffeine does not pose a health risk. In fact, a Johns Hopkins’ study found that one or two cups of coffee (about 200 mg of caffeine) is shown to increase focus and memory.
However, caffeine can be harmful in large quantities. One type of coffee called “Death Wish” contains 200% more caffeine than regular coffee and is available to purchase online. That much caffeine could be dangerous. Mayo Clinic recommends that you shouldn’t have more than 400 mg of caffeine a day (about 4 cups of regular coffee). Too much caffeine can cause health problems like migraines, insomnia, nervousness, irritability, restlessness, frequent urination, upset stomach, fast heartbeat, and muscle tremors. With many common drinks containing caffeine, it can be easy to consume too much. Unfortunately, caffeine can become slightly addictive. Cutting it out of your diet suddenly may lead to headaches, lack of alertness, or fatigue.
Caffeinated alcoholic beverages were banned in the U.S. after several reports of hospitalizations and deaths. Caffeine and alcohol create a dangerous combination of a fast, irregular heartbeat and dehydration.
Energy drinks, such as Monster, have been scrutinized for combining caffeine with other supplements that already contain caffeine. For example, one can of Monster says it contains 79 mg of caffeine, but the drink may have much more caffeine than the amount posted on the nutrition label because it includes additives that also contain caffeine, such as guarana. The caffeine in the additive is not included on the nutrition label. In 2012, the FDA announced that it would do more to protect consumers, especially children, and was testing to see if these drinks are harmful. However, as of December 2017, the agency has not made any new information available.
Researchers at the University of Maryland found these drinks could be harmful for young adults. Adults ages 21 to 25 who consumed highly caffeinated energy drinks were more likely to use cocaine, non-prescribed drugs, and become an alcoholic later in life.
Caffeine during pregnancy also affects offspring. Mothers drinking excess caffeine (more than 3 cups of coffee per day) during pregnancy can increase the risk of infants being overweight and staying overweight throughout early childhood.
Children often consume caffeine in soda. The typical 8 oz. cola has about 30 mg of caffeine, the same as Mountain Dew, which is enough to have an impact but is much less than energy drinks or coffee. However, many kids drink more than 8 oz of soda at a time, and soda also has a lot of sugar. Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks are the largest contributors to sugar intake in the U.S., and too much sugar contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and liver damage.
Energy drinks are dangerous for children, especially when they replace drinks that contain essential nutrients, such as milk. Caffeine is also known to interfere with calcium absorption, which means that anyone consuming caffeine will not adequately absorb calcium from dairy products or dietary supplements.
A study of the health effects of energy drinks in children found that the drinks did not provide any benefits and could cause health problems. Excess caffeine can cause high blood pressure and can be dangerous for children with pre-existing heart conditions. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) occurs in 8% to 16% of US school-aged children, and those children have a higher rate of substance abuse, including the abuse of caffeine. Energy drinks can also be harmful to children with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. Lacking proper nutrition, these children often have electrolyte deficiencies and are more likely to have cardiac problems that can worsen from excess caffeine.
All articles are reviewed and approved by Dr. Diana Zuckerman and other senior staff.
- Gatlin, L. (2014, Jan. 12). Caffeine has positive effect on memory, Johns Hopkins researchers say. Retrieved from https://hub.jhu.edu/2014/01/12/caffeine-enhances-memory/. Accessed Oct. 5, 2017.
- Swedish, J. (2013, Dec. 17). Death Wish Coffee Company Announces… Retrieved from https://www.deathwishcoffee.com/blogs/news/10943645-death-wish-coffee-company-announces. Accessed Oct. 5, 2017.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, March 8). Caffeine: How much is too much? Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678?pg=1. Accessed Oct. 5, 2017.
- Stromberg, J. (2013, Aug. 9). This Is How Your Brain Becomes Addicted to Caffeine. Retrieved from
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/this-is-how-your-brain-becomes-addicted-to-caffeine-26861037/. Accessed Oct. 10, 2017.
- United States Department of Agriculture. (2016, May). National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release. Retrieved from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show?ndbno=14627&fg=14&man=&lfacet=&format=Abridged&count=&max=25&offset=100&sort=f&qlookup=&rptfrm=nl&nutrient1=262&nutrient2=&nutrient3=&subset=0&totCount=272&measureby=m. Accessed Oct. 30, 2017.
- Food and Drug Administration. (2012, Nov. 16). Energy “Drinks” and Supplements: Investigations of Adverse Event Reports. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/newsevents/ucm328536.htm. Accessed Oct. 10, 2017.
- Blake, K. (2017, Aug. 8). UMD Researchers Discover Link Between Regular Energy Drink Use and Later Drug Use Among Young Adults. Retrieved from https://umdrightnow.umd.edu/news/umd-researchers-discover-link-between-regular-energy-drink-use-and-later-drug-use-among-young. Accessed Oct. 10, 2017.
- Papadopoulou, E., Botton, J., Brantsæter, A., Haugen, M., Alexander, J., Meltzer, H. M., . . . Sengpiel, V. (2018). Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy and childhood growth and overweight: Results from a large Norwegian prospective observational cohort study. BMJ Open, 8(3). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018895
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, April 14). Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/ healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20049372. Accessed on Oct. 17, 2017.
- Chen, A. (2017, Feb. 2). Sugar consumption increases health risks. Retrieved from http://www.jhunewsletter.com/2017/02/02/ sugar-consumption-increases-health-risks/ Accessed on Oct. 17, 2017.
- Seifert, S., Schaechter, J., Hershorin, E., & Lipshultz, S. (2011, March). Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/3/511#ref-11. Accessed on Oct. 23, 2017.