Doctors warn on caffeine

Food safety watchdogs say people should limit their coffee, tea, energy drink and chocolate consumption

27 May 2015

EUROPEAN food safety watchdogs have warned that people should cut their caffeine consumption – with a recommendation of just four cups of espresso a day and half that for pregnant women.

Scientists from the European Food Safety Authority said people drinking more faced health problems ranging from a racing heart, high blood pressure, shakes, insomnia and panic attacks.

But caffeine is found in many more foods and drinks than coffee and the EFSA looked at all forms of caffeine in tea, energy drinks and chocolate.

It also looked at the effects of a substance commonly found in dieting foods, p-synephrine, plus taurine in energy drinks – and at coffee’s effects when taken with alcohol.

The report says that taking up to 400mg a day, four cups of espresso, has no health effects in healthy adults, with up to 200mg for pregnant women. Children, who get much of their caffeine from chocolate, should not have more than 3mg of caffeine per kilogram of the child’s weight.

Northern European countries are known for their heavy coffee consumption and the report said a one in three Danes, one in six Dutch and one in seven Germans drinks more than 400mg a day. In France, just one in 18 exceeds this dose.

Filter coffee has most caffeine, at 90mg, with energy drinks and espresso giving 80mg, tea 50mg, cola 40mg, a bar of dark chocolate 25mg and milk chocolate 10mg.

#DIK how much #caffeine is there in... http://t.co/PaZp0Q95AD pic.twitter.com/eYbXM3KaFg— EFSA (@EFSA_EU) May 27, 2015

The study looked 39 different surveys in 22 different European countries and found that most studies showed coffee to be the main source of caffeine, except in Ireland and the UK, where tea contributed 59% and 57%. Chocolate was the main contributor in six surveys.

However, Le Monde blogger Big Browser pointed out that other studies had shown coffee could have beneficial effects or no bad effects, with Dr Arron Carroll telling the New York Times earlier this month:

In 2014, research looking at 36 studies covering 1.27million people found that people with a moderate coffee consumption of three to five cups a day had a reduced risk of cardiovascular problems – and drinking more had no effect.

In 2012, data on 480,000 people showed that people drinking two to six cups of coffee a day had a lower risk of stroke compared to zero consumption.

For heart failure, a mass study found “moderate drinking is associated with a lower risk, and the lowest risk lies with those who consume four cups per day on average". The study found there were no problems until drinking 10 cups.

Moderate coffee drinking has also been found to have reduced the risk of Parkinson’s disease and a “protecting” effect against Alzheimer.

Dr Carroll summed up by saying that no one was suggesting drinking coffee for your health but he “could think of no other product that has so many positive epidemiological indications”.

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