The Buzz on Caffeine… Food Safety / Nutrition

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed a lot of conflicting stories surrounding the safety of caffeine on the evening news.  One day the caffeine in coffee helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease and the next day energy drinks give people heart attacks… Have you had a hard time deciding whether caffeine is healthy or harmful?  Here’s some helpful science-based information.

Caffeine is the most widely used mild central nervous system stimulant (i.e. it gives you energy) on the market.  It’s naturally present (in fairly high amounts) in common foods such as coffee, tea and chocolate, among others. Coffee and tea remain the primary sources of caffeine in the U.S. diet, however high intakes of the stimulant can also be achieved through consumption of soda, energy drinks, weight loss pills, workout supplements and over-the-counter drugs such as Excedrin (or a combination of the above).

Coffee contains approximately 65-125 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. serving, while brewed tea contains between 20-90 mg per 8 oz. serving.  For healthy adults, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cited 400 mg/d as an amount not generally associated with dangerous, negative health outcomes. However, the slightly more conservative Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association) has the position that for most healthy adults, moderate amounts of caffeine — 200 to 300 milligrams a day, or about two to three cups of coffee — poses no problems to human health.

Keep in mind… some people are more sensitive to caffeine… you know who you are jitter bugs!  Caffeine sensitivity depends on the amount and frequency of caffeine consumption, body weight, physical condition and overall anxiety level, among other factors.

Check out my prior blog on “11 Reasons You Should Drink Coffee Every Day” to learn more about potential benefits of consuming moderate but not excessive amounts of caffeine in coffee.  Remember – if you have a heart condition or are pregnant, use some common sense and talk to your doc about the amount of caffeine you consume.

On the same line, it’s always a good idea to keep up with how much caffeine you are consuming.  Many food and dietary supplement manufacturers have chosen to voluntarily label the amount of caffeine in their products to accommodate for those who are sensitive and/or for parents who wish to limit its use by children (this is not mandatory by law).  Leading industry trade associations such as the American Beverage Association (ABA), Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and American Herbal Products Association (APHA) all have voluntary labeling programs that their members are encouraged or required to use.  Drugs are required by law in the U.S. to disclose the amount of caffeine present in the product.

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