Decades of research have found that moderate amounts of caffeine consumed by the general healthy population are safe and do not harm health. Caffeine’s safety is supported by its long history of consumption and extensive studies on its safety.
Caffeine may be used to impart a bitter taste to some food and beverage products, and some products may also contain caffeine for its well-known pick-me-up qualities. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies caffeine as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). GRAS ingredients must meet one of the following requirements:
1) The ingredients safety was established before 1958, based on a history of safe use and consumption by a significant number of consumers or
2) Scientific data and information about the safety and use of the ingredient is widely known and publicly available (through scientific articles, etc.), and there is consensus among scientific experts that the ingredient is safe for its intended use.
Caffeine is required to be listed in the ingredients list on food and beverage product labels, and some manufacturers also choose to list the quantity of caffeine on product labels as well.
Moderate caffeine consumption is considered to be in the range of 300 to 400 milligrams per day (mg/day), or about three to four 8-ounce cups of home-brewed coffee per day. According to FDA, the European Food Safety Authority and Health Canada, caffeine consumption of up to 400 mg daily is not associated with adverse health effects in the general healthy population of adults.
85% of the US population report consuming a caffeinated beverage daily with studies consistently demonstrating that coffee, tea and carbonated beverages serve as the primary sources of caffeine (Mitchell et al, 2014, Fulgoni, Keast & Lieberman, 2015, Drewnowski & Rehm, 2016). Average adult daily intake is around 186 mg of caffeine (Fulgoni, Keast & Lieberman, 2015). This is roughly equivalent to about 2 cups of home brewed coffee or 4 cups of tea or 2 small energy drinks. Caffeine consumption in all age groups are within acceptable limits suggested by health authorities around the world.
Caffeine consumption patterns have remained stable over the past decade despite the introduction of new caffeine sources to the U.S. marketplace such as the expansion of premium coffeehouses, or ready to drink energy products. Consumption data dating back to the 1970’s are also in line with current recommendations for safe, moderate consumption. The hypothesis is that consumers substitute caffeinated products to self-moderate intake seeking to maximize positive effects while avoiding the well-known side effects of overconsumption (Fulgoni, Keast and Lieberman, 2015)
Information about the amount of caffeine in common caffeinated foods and beverages is available from many sources, including manufacturers’ websites. Some manufacturers also provide caffeine content information on the product label. See our Sources & Amounts page for a general range of caffeine content in common caffeine-containing foods and beverages.
It is important to tally the caffeine from all sources you consume throughout the day to ensure you stay at or below the moderate range of 300 to 400 milligrams. Remember to look at the serving size provided on the label and, if you consume more than one serving, factor this into your total caffeine intake for the day. Non-food products, such as some medications, may also contain caffeine, so it is important to include these products in your calculations.
Caffeinated foods and beverages can be consumed by the general healthy population. Caffeine is found in various foods and beverages that can be consumed as part of an overall healthful diet, along with regular physical activity. Knowing how much caffeine you are consuming each day from all sources will help ensure you are consuming moderate amounts.
While caffeine is not an essential nutrient, moderate caffeine consumption has been associated with reduced risk of some non-communicable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Whether it’s a latte, soda, or energy drink, when enjoying a caffeinated beverage, keep the amount of caffeine per serving in mind. Despite common misperception, an 8-ounce energy drink contains about the same amount of caffeine as an 8-ounce cup of home-brewed coffee* – about 80 milligrams (Remember, moderate daily consumption is 300-400 mg for the average healthy adult).
Some people may need to avoid or limit caffeine consumption due to a health condition or individual sensitivity. Certain sensitive groups, such as pregnant and nursing women and those with a history of cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, should talk with their healthcare professional about their caffeine consumption to determine the amount that is best for them.
*Note that coffee house brews typically contain more caffeine per serving than home brewed coffee.
Yes, people do differ in their sensitivity to caffeine. While children, pregnant and nursing women, and those with a history of cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure are among those who may be more sensitive to caffeine than others, there are also differences in individual sensitivity among the general population.
Those concerned about experiencing undesirable effects of over-consuming caffeine, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, and jitters can limit their caffeine intake based on the amount and timing of consumption. For example, some people may choose to avoid consuming caffeine prior to bedtime in order to limit disruption of sleep.
Some people find that regularly consuming foods and beverages with caffeine may decrease their sensitivity to caffeine’s effects over time.
Research shows that caffeine can increase mental alertness at work or while studying and can enhance performance on certain mental tasks. In addition to alertness and mental performance, caffeine may also improve memory and reasoning in sleep-deprived people. Caffeine will not give you unusual or “superhuman” abilities, but instead may help you reach your peak mental alertness.
Caffeine has been shown to improve athletic performance, including improving endurance and delaying fatigue. Just one cup of coffee, or an equivalent amount of caffeine, has been found to have a beneficial effect on some aspects of athletic performance, and studies of cyclists found various forms of caffeinated beverages to be effective for improving performance. Similar to caffeine’s effect on mental alertness, caffeine can help an athlete achieve their peak performance, but not a level of performance that would be above their current physical capability.
No, caffeinated beverages do not cause dehydration and in fact can contribute to hydration. While caffeine itself has a mild diuretic effect, this is offset by the liquid in the beverage. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has concluded that caffeinated beverages, including coffee, tea, and soda, can contribute to total daily water intake.
The FDA, European Food Safety Authority, as well as credible health organizations such as the March of Dimes and the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists have stated that some caffeine is generally safe for pregnant and nursing women. They suggest pregnant or nursing women limit consumption to no more than 200 mg/day (or two 8-ounce cups of home-brewed coffee per day).
Studies have found that moderate amounts of caffeine do not cause adverse effects like miscarriage, preterm delivery, birth defects, or low birth weight.
Pregnant and nursing women should discuss their diet with their physician and/or health professional to ensure proper nutrition for them and their babies.
Those who say they are “addicted” to caffeine tend to use the term loosely, like saying they are “addicted” to chocolate, running, working, or television. However, evidence of true addiction such as that associated with addictive drugs of abuse has not been found in studies of caffeine.
Some people may experience mild, temporary effects from abruptly stopping caffeine consumption, including headache, restlessness, and irritability. However, experts agree that discomfort can be avoided by gradually decreasing caffeine intake over time.
Leading health authorities such as the European Food Safety Authority (2015) and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015) concur that typical moderate caffeine intake (up to 400 mg daily) is not associated with increased risks of total cardiovascular disease.
More recent findings support these assessments and confirm that moderate levels of caffeine intake are not associated with adverse cardiovascular effects (Turnbull et al., 2017 and Wikoff et al., 2017)
Those with a history of cardiovascular diseases should talk to their healthcare professional if they have concerns about their caffeine intake.
In some sensitive individuals, caffeine may have a mild and temporary effect on blood pressure similar to that experienced from climbing a flight of stairs. It does not cause chronic high blood pressure (hypertension) or any persistent increase in blood pressure. Moderate levels of caffeine intake are not associated with adverse cardiovascular effects, including blood pressure endpoints. (Turnbull et al., 2017 and Wikoff et al., 2017)
Those with a history of cardiovascular diseases including hypertension should talk to their healthcare professional if they have concerns about their caffeine intake.