How Much Caffeine?

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Caffeine – frequently called the world’s most popular drug – is consumed by about 85% of Americans each day, through coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate, among other products. There are many potential benefits to drinking caffeine, like better memory and higher alertness, stronger athletic performance, alleviation of headaches, and reduced risk of Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, and some cancers. But there are many potential disadvantages to drinking caffeine excessively, like increased anxiety and irritability, increased risk of heart disease, and in very high doses, palpitations, seizures, or even death.

So how much caffeine is too much? Dr. Rudy Evonich of UP Health System Marquette agrees with the Food and Drug Administration’s daily recommendation.

“The safe dose is 400 milligrams a day,” he says.

That’s about the amount of caffeine in four cups of coffee, depending on the size of your cup. However, if you’re under the age of 18, have a genetic heart condition, or are pregnant, you’ll want to consume a lower amount of caffeine, though there’s no official recommendation from the FDA.

 

“There is some loose evidence that higher doses may have some negative health effects,” says Dr. Evonich. “If you do choose to consume it, pay attention to the signals your body is giving you.”

Evonich says the most dangerous place he sees caffeine is when it’s co-ingested with alcohol, because it allows people to stay conscious longer, potentially enabling them to drink unsafe amounts of alcohol.

“If you’re consuming alcohol in combination with caffeine – for instance, Red Bull & vodka – you can drink a lot more alcohol than you normally would, and drink to the point where you get acute alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal,” he says.

Evonich also says if you choose to consume caffeine, it’s better to opt with coffee or tea, rather than sugary drinks like soda or energy drinks, because the side effects of the sugar could include increased risk of diabetes or obesity.

But for healthy adults, Evonich says as long as you keep the caffeine under 400 milligrams daily, you can drink those cups of coffee guilt-free.

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