Monday, July 2, 2012

How Much Caffeine is Too Much?

Your weight, metabolism and level of sensitivity will impact how your body reacts to caffeine.

Man sitting at computer drinking coffee.
You won't be alone if you start your day off with a cup of coffee.

Throughout the world, caffeine is the most widely consumed legal psychoactive stimulate. About 90 percent of adults consume caffeine daily.

Why do so many of us have to start the day with one or more cups of coffee? Maybe because we believe it helps to wake us up.

Studies have shown that caffeine increases alertness, metabolism and athletic endurance, and that it improves mood. Other studies have shown moderate amounts of caffeine to be safe and help to prevent some diseases, including cancer.

Moderation is the key; “too much” coffee may increase the risk of heart problems. For some, too much caffeine can cause sleeplessness, anxiety, upset stomach and/or headaches.

So, how much caffeine is too much? This varies by individual. Our ability to tolerate caffeine depends on our weight, metabolism and level of sensitivity.

The U.S. Food Administration and the American Medical Association have noted that the average consumption is 200 to 300 mg per day, or about two to three cups of coffee, which is considered a moderate intake and found to be generally safe for the most adults.

So enjoy that cup or two of coffee tomorrow morning. You will not be alone.

Sources of Caffeine and Amounts

6 ounces coffee 100 to 200 mg (varies on strength of brew)
Single espresso 100 mg
Black tea 50 mg
Green tea 30 mg
12-ounce soft drink 34 to 54 mg
Dark chocolate 30 to 160 mg (varies on percentage of cacao)

Levels of Intake

  • Low intake is 100 to 200 mg per day
  • Moderate is 200 to 300 mg per day
  • High intake is above 400 mg per day
  • Extremely high amounts such as 80 to 100 cups of coffee can be toxic

— Lisa Westphal, MS, dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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