OTTAWA - Health Canada is reminding Canadians about the importance of managing consumption of caffeine, especially by children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and women who are planning to become pregnant.
While small amounts of caffeine are not a concern for most Canadians, over consumption of caffeine can cause insomnia, headaches, irritability, dehydration and nervousness. Health Canada recommends that healthy adults do not exceed 400 mg of caffeine per day. This amount equals about three 8 oz cups (237 ml) of brewed coffee per day.
For other groups, the effects of consuming caffeine can be more severe. Research has shown that too much caffeine for pregnant and breastfeeding women can harm the baby. Pregnant women who consume too much caffeine are at a higher risk of miscarriage and can give birth to babies with a lower birth weight. Pregnant or breastfeeding women and women who are planning to become pregnant should consume no more than 300 mg of caffeine per day. This amount equals a little over two 8 oz (237 ml) cups of coffee.
Children are also more sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Too much caffeine in children can cause increased anxiety, restlessness and insomnia. Based on average body weights of children, this means a daily caffeine intake of no more than 45 mg for children aged 4-6; 62.5 mg for children aged 7-9; and 85 mg for children aged 10-12. These recommended maximums are equivalent to about one to two 12 oz (355 ml) cans of cola a day.
Health Canada has not developed definitive advice for adolescents 13 and older because of insufficient data. Nonetheless, Health Canada suggests that daily caffeine intake for this age group be no more than 2.5 mg/kg body weight. This is because the maximum adult caffeine dose may not be appropriate for light weight adolescents or for younger adolescents who are still growing. The daily dose of 2.5 mg/kg body weight would not cause adverse health effects in the majority of adolescent caffeine consumers. This is a conservative suggestion since older and heavier weight adolescents may be able to consume adult doses of caffeine without suffering adverse effects.
Caffeine, in its natural and added forms, can be found in various products, including:
- Cola and some other carbonated soft drinks;
- coffee and tea;
- energy drinks; and
- some cold and headache medicines.
It is also important to know that not all sources of caffeine are obvious. Some natural ingredients, such as guarana and yerba mate, are also naturally occurring sources of caffeine. All sources of caffeine should be included when calculating your daily intake.
Some products, such as energy drinks, can be a major source of caffeine. Energy drinks are not foods, but are regulated as natural health products intended for therapeutic purposes, such as "increasing mental and physical alertness". Consumers can tell which energy drinks have been reviewed by Health Canada for safety, effectiveness and quality by looking for the eight-digit Natural Product Number ( NPN ) on the label. Depending on how these energy drinks are consumed, they may lead to consumers exceeding Health Canada's recommendations, particularly those for pregnant or breastfeeding women and children. Approved energy drinks are labelled with a warning advising children and pregnant women not to consume these products. For healthy adults, it is important to follow the label instructions on energy drinks. Do not exceed the recommended limits on the label. More information on energy drinks is available from Health Canada's It's Your Health on Energy Drinks.
As part of its ongoing monitoring, Health Canada recently reassessed the labelling requirements for energy drinks and is developing a new labelling standard for all energy drinks sold in Canada. The new labelling standard will add certain risk statements and reword some existing ones for clarity. This standard will help consumers understand the risk and the benefits of taking these products, and have the information they need to make an informed decision about their use.
Health Canada's scientists continue to review new research findings to ensure that recommended daily caffeine intake levels are based on the results of the best scientific evidence available.
For more information on caffeine consumption, please visit:
Health Canada's webpage on Caffeine in Foods
The Public Health Agency of Canada's webpage on Caffeine and Pregnancy
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