Caffeine Myths and Facts

caffeine-myths-facts

Is Caffeine Healthy or Not?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance that has been enjoyed by people for thousands of years.

It is generally regarded as the most widely consumed food/drug in the world. Caffeine enhances certain aspects of both physical and mental performance, as well as alertness.

People who use caffeine regularly and responsibly to make the most of their day, often face conflicting and confusing statements regarding the effects of caffeine on a person’s health.

Luckily, caffeine is one of the most comprehensively studied substances with centuries of safe consumption when taken in moderate doses.

As a result, there is a vast amount of scientific data that can provide answers to the many questions that exist surrounding the use of caffeine.

Myth: Caffeine is not safe.

The Facts

Because caffeine is so widely used, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully reviewed and deemed it as safe and effective. In 1958, caffeine was placed on the Food and Drug Administration’s list as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

A comprehensive review of caffeine safety was recently published and concluded that moderate daily caffeine intake at doses up to 400 mg per/day was not associated with adverse effects such as general toxicity, cardiovascular effects, effects on bone status and calcium balance (with consumption of adequate calcium), changes in adult behavior, increased incidence of cancer and effects on male fertility. Src.

Another article that reviewed the effects of caffeine on human behavior also concluded that caffeine is unlikely to cause adverse events when taken in moderation. Src.

People with pre-existing health problems may want to consult their physician regarding their use of caffeine.

Experts agree that moderation and common sense are the keys to safe consumption of caffeine.

What is considered a “normal” amount of caffeine depends on an individual’s sensitivity and can be affected by frequency and amount of intake, body weight, age, and a person’s overall health.

Myth Busted? Yes, the research would tell us that caffeine is safe in moderation.

is caffeine addictive

Myth: Caffeine is an addictive drug.

The Facts:

Caffeine is a pharmacologically active substance; it can work as a mild stimulant, and therefore is considered a drug. Few caffeine users report loss of control of caffeine intake or significant difficulty in reducing or stopping caffeine if desired. Thus, caffeine is mildly addictive, but it is not on the same level as other addictive stimulants.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse doesn’t include caffeine on its Commonly Abused Drugs List.

However, people can have some dependency and level of addiction to caffeine. Many feel they need it to function normally and can have withdrawal symptoms if they miss their daily dose. We put together a useful Caffeine Addiction Diagnosis Tool to help determine a person’s level of dependency.

It is also important to note that caffeine overdose and withdrawal is now included in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Myth Busted? This myth would be partially true. Caffeine has some addictive properties, but not all that would allow it to fully be considered a dangerous addictive substance.

caffeine-heart

Myth: Caffeine causes heart problems

The Facts:

A comprehensive review of caffeine safety was recently done and published, which concluded that moderate daily caffeine intake at a dose level up to 400 mg per/day was not associated with cardiovascular effects. Src.

Furthermore, the Framingham Heart Study examined potential links between caffeine intake and cardiovascular disease. This study showed that there is no significant relationship between caffeine consumption and development of stroke or cardiovascular disease. Thus, it was concluded that moderate caffeine consumption is not a factor in the development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

A Harvard University study confirmed this report, concluding that caffeine intake does not “appreciably increase the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.” In fact, the Framingham study also concluded that caffeinated coffee drinkers had a 43% less risk of cardiac death. Src.

However, caffeine can be dangerous for those with underlying heart conditions. This is especially dangerous for minors because they may not yet have been diagnosed. The severe reactions to caffeine and even deaths are usually attributed to those with underlying heart problems.

Myth Busted? Yes, There is yet no evidence linking caffeine to causing heart disease or heart disorders.

caffeine-cancer

Myth: Caffeine Causes Cancer

The Facts:

Many studies have looked at the relationship between caffeine intake and increased risk of certain cancers, but no associations have been discovered or supported by this research. Src.

Other studies have shown that caffeine when consumed via caffeinated coffee even has a cancer preventative effect. This probably is the result of the antioxidants contained in the coffee beans, but the same correlations were not observed among decaffeinated coffee drinkers.

Myth Busted? Yes, there is no research that supports this belief.

All in Moderation

Based on what science in currently telling us, caffeine consumed in moderation (<400mg/day) will most likely produce no ill effects in healthy adults.

However, excessive caffeine consumption can lead to adrenal fatigue and severe withdrawal symptoms, so some caution should be taken if daily amounts are becoming excessive. Overdose symptoms range from mild to dangerous, and caffeine is lethal at a high enough dosage.

Much of the research surrounding caffeine has been performed on adults or lab rats, so the risk to children isn’t fully understood.

It isn’t clear how caffeine can potentially affect an individual while they are still growing. This is important since highly caffeinated energy drinks are often consumed by this age group.

Recently the American Medical Association endorsed a ban that would restrict the advertisement of energy drinks to minors.

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  • Marie

    I have been taking Vivarin for 20+ years. I have a hard time getting by without it on some days. I believe if you take it as prescribed that all will be will in the world. We all need a little something to get us going in the morning!

  • mandy

    caffeine is a very additive drug i dont care what anyone says it is

  • Harry Caffeinicus

    Not addictive? LOL (or not)
    Well, I must be the great exemption. I tried to go without caffeine (because of my severe gastritis) and managed to do so for 3 months or so. Now I am hooked on black tea. I was soo tired all the time. I dream of getting amphetamines all the time, but fortunately, I am wise enough to never touch this drug.

  • WD

    Hi… would appreciate any reliable information you may have found on average levels of daily caffeine consumption (among adults, children, etc.). Can’t seem to find much that is authoritative. Any suggestions?

  • CaffeineChemist

    I’m an organic chemistry student going into biochem/microbiology, and I’d just like to say that caffeine CAN be addictive to some people. Not all, but some. Also, it is possible to build up tolerance to caffeine, as many an energy drink fan could tell you, including me (I for instance actually don’t even get a buzz off of caffeinated sodas anymore; I do stay alert but I can sleep quietly after a Mountain Dew).

  • Juju

    I would just like to say here, from a clinical perspective, that caffeine is often times given to children or adults who have chemical imbalances in the brain. Those children with ADHD, if they are given a half a cup of caffeinated coffee will actually make them ‘sleepy’ rather than ‘hyper’. (Same studies were found in adults, as well). I would also like to state that caffeine can be addictive if it has been abused. Many have reported severe headaches if caffeine consumption is stopped abruptly (after it has been abused over long periods of time.) The whole point of the article is “moderation.” I’ve heard so many people slam caffeine but coffee beans, etc go back thousands of years and was/is used medically as well as for personal enjoyment. Again, the key word is “moderation.” So, bring on that chocolate bar or Starbucks latte! It’s okay in moderation!

  • Randall

    “Thus, caffeine is not addictive and is not listed in the category of addicting stimulants.”

    Caffeine is very addictive. Try going a month without any caffeine. I dare you.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t like the way this page found its answers, the US FDA is not a reliable source of information as they spread lies about many foods that can be very dangerous and they will pass them on as safe. I do know caffeine is not a very safe thing to put in your body, I wanted to know why and was very unhappy to see that someone is trying to play it off as safe.

  • ted

    It is safe in moderation for most people. And, it’s not just the FDA that says this. Caffeine is the MOST researched drug in history and the vast majority of research indicates that it is safe in moderation. Do a google scholar search on caffeine research if you don’t believe us.

  • T

    Myth: This article is completely correct.

    Fact: There are no sources shown for anything, except a very vague reference to a company whose sole purpose is to sell caffeine pills (which are stronger than a normal cup of coffee).

  • Energy Fiend

    thanks for your feedback, we’ll work on linking to the studies referred too.

  • jameskatt

    I do that all the time. It is not addictive.

  • Anthony Anderson

    This is the dumbest health article I’ve ever read. It states that caffeine being an addictive drug is a myth, then goes on to say that, yes, it’s a drug, and yes it’s addictive in the supporting paragraph. What kind of “in-denial, addicted coffee drinker” wrote this article?

  • The article is discussing common beliefs about caffeine and showing what the research tells us concerning whether or not those myths are valid or not. In the case caffeine being addictive, the supporting paragraphs supported the fact that this is partially true.

  • Anthony Anderson

    “Caffeine is a pharmacologically active substance; it can work as a mild stimulant, and therefore is considered a drug.”

    The above statement admits it’s a drug…

    “…people can have some dependency and level of addiction to caffeine.”

    This statement above admits it’s addictive. Those are the only two claims in the myth “Caffeine is an addictive drug”. That sounds like the whole truth to me, not just partial.

  • Not all drugs are addictive and you are not understanding all involved in classifying a drug as an addictive substance. Caffeine possesses some of those characteristics but not all, which is why The National Institute of Drug Abuse doesn’t include it on their list and why this myth is only partially true.

  • Anthony Anderson

    It’s not about me not understanding. I just don’t let the NIDA dictate what the definition of addictive is. I mean, if this very own article uses the word “addictive” to describe it’s effects on people, isn’t that close enough? Just read the comments here from the last 7 years. I think the consensus would agree with my definition rather than the NIDA’s too. Please don’t take offense to this comment as I am not trying to start any arguments, but it’s just a simple disagreement due to each one of us accepting different definitions of the word. Perhaps at this point it’s best to agree to disagree.

  • Abi

    Well I go months between alcoholic beverages; doesn’t mean alcohol isn’t addictive! Not everyone gets addicted to every addictive substance they try.

  • Josh

    I read through many of the comments, don’t agree with most of them. The important part of the article is the research on health for moderate doses. I agree with the article saying caffeine is partially addictive. The problem is, anything can cause “addiction”. People just point at one thing based on personal opinion. Spending money, playing games, working out, socially. Although not external chemicals being introduced to your brain, people can still have withdrawal symptoms. The good part is, caffeine, in moderate doses, is not deadly, or dangerous. And it will not hit your wallet quite as hard as other things.

  • Ted

    That’s a good way of looking at it Josh.

Last Modified: December 16, 2016