By: Angela Dufour, Jun 12, 2014

Is caffeine really bad for my overall health?

Will that cup of Joe in the morning really harm your health?

Right now, it appears that a moderate caffeine intake does not increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis or cancer. Contrary to popular opinion, caffeinated drinks do not dehydrate us, especially if we are used to caffeine.

Caffeine is found naturally in more than 60 plants such as coffee and cocoa beans, tea leaves, kola nut, yerba mate, and guarana. It's also used in soft drinks, energy drinks and drugs such as some cold and pain remedies. Coffee and tea are the main sources of caffeine for adults, while soft drinks are the main sources for children.

How much caffeine is safe? Health Canada recommends that adults limit their caffeine intake to no more than 400-450 mg/day. This is about the amount found in three 8-ounce cups of regular coffee.

Health Canada also recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women limit their intake to no more than 300 mg per day (two cups of coffee or six cups of tea). Caffeine can be passed to an infant in breast milk, which may result in irritability and sleeplessness.

Recommended limits for children are even lower (45 mg/day for children 4-6 years, 62.5 mg/d for 7-9 years and 85 mg/day for children 10-12 years). It doesn’t take much for children to reach these limits. There are about 45 mg of caffeine in a 12-oz can of cola, 80 mg in an energy drink and roughly 10 mg in a solid milk chocolate bar.

For the average healthy adult, moderate caffeine intakes pose no health risk, especially if we eat a balanced diet and enjoy regular physical activity.

Angela C. Dufour, MEd., PDt., IOC Grad Dip Sports Nutr, CFE, is a sports dietitian and owner of Nutrition in Action in Bedford, N.S. Since 1999 Angela has been working as a professional dietitian within the health and sports and foodservice industries in Halifax and abroad. She is also a Regional (Nutrition) Marketing Manager with Compass Group Canada; food services management. Most recently, Angela has worked with Compass Group Canada’s Sport and Leisure and Entertainment Division to assist the culinary and marketing teams with her expertise in Sports Nutrition Food Services to effectively deliver appropriate high performance mass meal service to a variety of athletic groups, including the Canada Summer Games, 2009 in PEI and Molson Canadian Hockey House for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Angela’s clientele includes a variety of athletes, coaches, parents, provincial/national and international athletes. She also provides professional education services to the general public including non-athletes, children, adolescents and the elderly. Her services range from one-on-one consults to group packages, including personal diet assessments and analysis. To learn more, visit