Where would we be without our caffeine-loaded drinks? Many people around the world rely on the caffeine kick, provided by our daily coffee, to start the day. Caffeine-laden energy drinks are used to provide a midday boost, and it has even become popular to mix energy drinks with alcohol. Gas stations offer caffeine-based pills to help us keep awake when driving, and there is often a dose of hidden caffeine in everyday foodstuff.
There is no doubt that caffeine is consumed in large amounts, often through coffee drinking. According to Medical News Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state that “the average amount of caffeine consumed in the US is approximately 300 mg per person per day – the equivalent to between two and four cups of coffee.” This is, of course, a moderate amount of caffeine, and many people consume a lot more. As is often the case with foodstuffs, there is a lot of conflicting advice about whether too much caffeine is dangerous. You can be sure that the dangers of caffeine will be in the news again after a South Carolina coroner ruled that a healthy teenager died from a caffeine-induced cardiac event.
According to CNN, 16-year-old Davis Allen Cripe consumed just three caffeine laden-drinks, but they caused the cardiac arrest that killed the otherwise healthy teenager. Cripe drank a cafe latte, a large Diet Mountain Dew, and an energy drink over a couple of hours before collapsing in his classroom at Spring Hill High School on April 26.
Coroner Gary Watts said Davis was healthy and that no drugs or alcohol were found in his system at the time of his tragic death. The coroner pleaded with parents to talk to their children about the dangers of drinking too much caffeine and pointed to energy drinks as being the main culprit.
So How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?
When it comes to things like caffeine, there is a lot of conflicting advice. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that 12- to 18-years-olds should restrict their caffeine intake to under 0.100 milligrams of caffeine per day. Consuming more caffeine than those recommendations can lead to elevated blood pressure, and it can disturb the rhythm of the heart. As Davis Cripe’s family will testify, this can have fatal consequences.
The problem is that reports on caffeine consumption often contradict each other. According to Science Direct, a new report published in Food and Chemical Toxicology suggests you can surpass the average and hit 400 milligrams of caffeine without worry.
“The evidence generally supports that consumption of up to 400 mg caffeine per day in healthy adults is not associated with overt, adverse cardiovascular effects, behavioral effects, reproductive and developmental effects, acute effects, or bone status.”
caffeine is a stimulant that can help to keep us alert, and it is also believed that caffeine has antioxidant properties. The problem is that caffeine stimulates the release of adrenalin, the chemical responsible for the body’s “fight or flight” response. The release of adrenalin increases our blood pressure and heart rate and can lead to feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and irritability. Those who are under stress already have elevated levels of adrenalin, so a caffeine-induced adrenalin rush can prove extremely dangerous, or even fatal.
For reference, a 12-ounce coffee contains around 235 milligrams of caffeine, and that’s without your “extra shot.” A Diet Coke has around 50 milligrams of caffeine. As you can see, an intake of two regular coffees and a Diet Coke take you 20 percent over the recommended daily caffeine intake.
As generally seems to be the case, a moderate caffeine intake is safe and may even have some health benefits, but individuals seem to have different levels of tolerance to caffeine.
[Featured Image by Rob Carr/AP Images]