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Caffeine: How much is "too much"?

Caffeine is one of the most widely used stimulants in the world. It is a naturally occurring substance in plants (not just coffee beans) and depending upon the source, some estimates indicate that Americans consume on average 300mg of the substance every day. For those unfamiliar with what 300mg "looks like", that's about about 3 cups of regular coffee each day.

It can be confusing for many folks to total the amount of caffeine that they consume in one day because current food labeling standards are not required to list the content of caffeine on a food label. The FDA requires that they only list its presence.

According to Mayo Clinic, adults can safely consume about 400mg of caffeine/day pending they have no underlying health issues that may warrant abstaining from or limiting caffeine intake such as:

  • pregnancy (upper limit is 200mg/day due to some studies suggesting exceeding this amount is associated with low birth weight and poor intrauterine growth)
  • have heart problems (as caffeine raises blood pressure)
  • an anxiety disorder
  • osteoporosis (intakes of 800mg/day are associated with increased bone loss in some studies)

Caffeine is typically consumed and associated with an immediate increase in energy, however it is important to note that caffeine stays in the blood stream up to 10 hours after it is consumed. This means if you drink a caffeinated beverage at 2pm, it is possible that it could affect your sleep at midnight. 

If you're uncertain if you should be consuming caffeine, ask your doctor. A dietitian can help you come up with a safe and effective plan to  not only accurately estimate your total daily caffeine intake but also to reduce it while minimizing the side effects of doing so such as fatigue and headache. 


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