How Much Caffeine is Too Much Caffeine?

Updated 4 years ago

By- Dr. Joan Marie PellegriniFirst, I should declare a conflict of interest since I am an avid coffee drinker. None the less, I’ve had patients and friends tell me that they are going to try to cut down how much caffeine they consume. When I ask why they are concerned, I hear about the fear of heart disease, cancer, and breast disease. It turns out that these are not valid concerns.Caffeine acts on certain receptors in the brain and body to increase metabolism and alertness. Everyone knows that it helps keep us awake. Most of the time, caffeine is consumed precisely for that “side-effect”. The International Olympic Committee also knows that it is a performance enhancer and hence they test athletes for how much caffeine is in their bodies. A certain amount is acceptable.A typical cup of coffee contains approximately 100 mg of caffeine. Some brands are more potent. For instance, a Starbuck’s® “short” coffee contains 180 mg. A moderate amount of caffeine consumption is considered to be 2-4 cups of coffee a day (200-300 mg caffeine). Anything intake above 500 mg is considered to be a potential for adverse consequences. Too much caffeine can cause tremors, anxiety, insomnia, stomach upset, palpitations, high blood pressure, and a head ache. Each person has their own sensitivity to the effects of caffeine. Fortunately, there is no good evidence to link caffeine intake with any type of cancer or heart disease. It is now also known to be a myth that caffeine causes breast disease. Caffeine has only very rare interactions with any medications. Therefore, caffeine is an incredibly safe “drug”. This is great news because it also is the most widely consumed drug in the world.Now that we can relax about the safety of caffeine, we need to ask ourselves why we consume caffeine and why we consume as much as we do. If you consume minimal or only moderate doses of caffeine, you do not need to worry. However, if you are one of many people who consume large doses of caffeine on a daily basis, you really should examine your habits. Do you get enough sleep? If not, what can you do to improve this area of your health? Do you have problems with inattention during the day? If so, why? Are you having problems with tremors, palpitations, high blood pressure, stomach upset, or diarrhea? Are you taking one of the few drugs that can interact with caffeine? Depending on the answers to the above questions: could you consider switching to a non-caffeinated drink? If you would like to look up the amount of caffeine in a drink, there is a very comprehensive website listing almost every drink available. This website is