Caffeine is a mild stimulant that is found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate and even in some supplements and medications. According to Health Canada, caffeine intake for adults is safe up to 400mg/day. This amount equates to 3- 8oz cups of coffee/day. For women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is safe to have up to 300mg/day. If you are planning to become pregnant, it is best to follow the guidelines set for pregnant women.
Positive Effects of Caffeine/Coffee Intake
Caffeine intake can increase alertness and concentration in adults when taken in healthy amounts. As coffee is the main source of caffeine for adults in Canada, it is important to note that coffee itself contains antioxidants, which promote disease prevention, as as well potassium, magnesium, chromium, niacin (Vitamin B3) and manganese.
Although research is still being done, studies show that at safe amounts, caffeine does not contribute to heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer or infertility. Furthermore, scientific evidence does not support adversities such as miscarriages, low birth weights or congenital malformations when staying within safe levels.
Adverse Effects of Caffeine Intake
Adverse effects of caffeine intake (which take place generally when we go over the recommended amount) include sleep disturbance, headaches, irritability, GI disturbances and nervousness. More than 400mg/day can increase risk of cardiovascular disease as caffeine increases blood pressure and heart rate. Additionally, some people are naturally more sensitive to caffeine and can have adverse effects at lesser amounts.
Caffeine, Coffee and Disease
If living with low bone density, osteopenia, or osteoporosis, it is especially important to stay at or below 400mg/day. Too much caffeine can increase calcium excretion in urine and can decrease calcium absorption.
Although caffeine can cause the pancreas to work harder in order to clear sugar from the blood, coffee itself (even decaf) has actually been shown to protect against type 2 diabetes. Coffee is a source of an antioxidant (phytochemical) which improves insulin sensitivity and decreased glucose absorption.
In terms of Alzheimer’s disease, up to 3 coffees/day is associated with improved cognitive function and caffeine actually decreases amyloid plaque formation.
For those living with GERD, caffeine can decrease the pressure in the esophageal sphincter, causing symptoms. Therefore, if living with GERD you may have to decrease caffeine intake.
Food Sources of Caffeine
1 cup (8 oz) of coffee- Approx. 100mg to 180mg
Espresso- 1 oz- about 50-90mg
Latte- 1 cup- 45-75mg
Decaf coffee- 1 cup (8oz)- 3-15mg
Tea- black- 1 cup- 45-80mg
Tea- green, white or oolong- 1 cup- 25-45mg
Energy drinks- 1 cup- 80-125mg
Soft drinks- 1 can (355ml)- 20-50mg
Dark chocolate- 40g (1 small bar)- 27mg
In conclusion, moderate caffeine intake for most adults is not related to side effects and can even be beneficial to health. However, if choosing to decrease caffeine intake, which is important especially if exceeding the safe limit, decrease intake gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
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Nicole Marchand, RD