Published on May 10, 2024 at 8:00 / Updated on May 25, 2024 at 8:00

Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea leaves, cocoa beans, guarana and yerba maté. It is also added to some soft drinks (e.g., cola) and energy drinks, as well as certain cold and headache medications. Additionally, caffeine can be purchased over-the-counter in tablet form.

While caffeine is the most consumed stimulant in the world, its long-term health effects are not well known. Studies have shown, however, that moderate amounts of caffeine are usually safe, and may even offer certain health benefits.

Desired effects and possible benefits

Caffeine consumption is associated with some short-term benefits, including:

  • Increased mental alertness
  • Improved reaction time and athletic performance
  • Mitigation of the adverse effects of sleep deprivation and jet lag on cognitive functions (e.g., perception, memory, reasoning, decision-making)

Studies have not established any long-term benefits to regular caffeine consumption, though it has been suggested that caffeine may reduce the risk of some diseases.

Side effects and health risks

The consumption of high levels of caffeine can lead to short-term adverse effects, including:

  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Tremor
  • Insomnia

These effects are more common in occasional caffeine users. Furthermore, certain groups may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, including women of childbearing age and children.

Individuals who use caffeine daily may experience withdrawal symptoms (e.g., headache) when they stop.

Recommended maximum intake

Most healthy adults can safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine daily.

In children and adolescents, the recommended daily intake is based on body weight. The following amounts are considered safe:

  • 4 to 6 years: 45 mg per day
  • 7 to 9 years: 62.5 mg per day
  • 10 to 12 years: 85 mg per day
  • Adolescents: 2.5 mg/kg of body weight per day

The occasional consumption of caffeine is not contraindicated in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The recommended maximum caffeine intake for women who are planning on becoming pregnant or who are pregnant or breastfeeding is 300 mg per day.

Sources of caffeine

The table below can help you estimate your daily caffeine intake. Use it to find out how much caffeine is in the foods you eat on a regular basis.

Approximate caffeine content of commonly consumed products

For 1 cup (250 mL)
Energy drinks80-97 mg
Decaffeinated coffee3-15 mg
Brewed coffee80-179 mg
Instant coffee81-106 mg
Cappuccino or latte45-148 mg
Brewed espresso (30 mL)64-90 mg
Chocolate milk9 mg
Decaffeinated tea0-5 mg
Black tea43-50 mg
Green, oolong, white tea25-45 mg
Herbal tea0 mg
For 1 can (355 mL)
Cola37-38 mg
Diet cola25-50 mg
Iced tea14-32 mg
Per portion
Chocolate milk (28 g)7 mg
Chocolate cake (80 g)36 mg
Chocolate pudding (145 g)9 mg
Meal replacement (e.g., chocolate Ensure or Boost drink)3-6 mg
Per tablet or capsule
Analgesics15-65 mg
Stimulant drugs (e.g., Wake-Ups)100-200 mg

Since caffeine can interact with some medications and affect your health, be sure to speak to your healthcare provider. He or she will be able to provide you with information on specific measures that can be taken, if warranted.

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