Caffeine often gets a bad rap in the good-for-you arena. But with the number of peer-reviewed research articles to consider, should it? Well, that’s exactly what researchers set out to determine in a recently-published, systematic review of the potentially-adverse effects of consuming caffeine in four healthy populations.
What the Study Found
Researchers systematically analyzed extensive published, peer-reviewed data from 2001 to mid-2015, looking for evidence of adverse effects of caffeine – related to toxicity, cardiovascular health, bones and calcium, behavior, and development and reproduction – in healthy adults, pregnant women, adolescents and children. They found:
- No evidence of caffeine having negative effects on healthy adults consuming up to 400 mg caffeine daily. That’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four 8-ounce cups of coffee.
- For healthy, pregnant women, consumption of up to 300 mg caffeine was not associated with any negative reproductive or developmental effects, though current recommendations advise limiting caffeine to 200 mg daily.
- And for children and adolescents? Though there is not an abundance of existing data, available evidence points toward 2.5 mg/kg body weight as a safe recommendation. That’s about 113 mg caffeine for a 100-pound teen or 56 mg for a 50-pound child.
- In the future, research is recommended to shift from looking at healthy individuals to focusing on sensitive and unhealthy populations.
Consider the Caffeine Source
Figuring out how to apply research results to daily life is the next step. First, healthy individuals can enjoy moderate amounts of caffeine each day. Also, caffeine comes from different plant sources, including coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, kola nuts – used for “cola” drinks – and guarana, frequently added to energy and weight loss products. Coffee, tea and soft drinks are the main dietary sources of caffeine for adults and children.
Rich in antioxidants and calorie-free, coffee is a better caffeinated drink choice than, for example, soda or energy drinks. Its moderate consumption (3 to 5 cups daily) has been widely studied for potential health associations, including:
- Decreased mortality from all causes
- Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancers of the liver and endometrium
- Increased alertness and concentration
To read more, check out “JAVA ‘n’ Health: Fact vs. Fiction.”
Caffeine and Hydration
A common concern with caffeinated beverages is the effect they have on hydration. After all, science says that even mild dehydration may trigger decreased memory, fatigue, headaches, mood change and tension.
Here’s the good news from expert organizations:
- The Institute of Medicine said in 2004 that all beverages – including caffeinated – are hydrating.
- The U.S. Beverage Guidance Panel concluded in 2006 that consuming up to 500 mg of caffeine in a day does not cause dehydration.
- A 2006 International Life Sciences Institute statement recommended consuming a variety of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages to meet the body’s fluid requirements.
For practical ways to meet daily fluid requirements, read “Good Ol’ Summertime Hydration Includes Drinking Coffee.”
Caffeine does affect individuals differently. It is metabolized at different rates due to genetics, and sensitivity may be affected by the amount of caffeine someone is used to consuming. Listen to your body, and talk to a doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist about questions. But if you’re in good health and appreciate the boost a great cup of coffee gives you in your day, enjoy it … guilt-free, of course!
To read the 2017 “Systematic Review of the Potential Adverse Effects of Caffeine Consumption in Healthy Adults, Pregnant Women, Adolescents, and Children” study,click here.
Beth Witherspoon, MPH, RDN, has a passion for communicating culinary and nutrition information. She is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who consults with Community Coffee Company to help communicate the flavor and health benefits of coffee.