The dangers of caffeine; how much is too much?

Many people start the day with a cup of coffee, or drink soda or energy drinks throughout the day.

But do you know just how much caffeine you’re consuming, and how much is considered dangerous?

Recently, a teenager in South Carolina died from a caffeine overdose. The autopsy found no sign of a heart condition in the 16-year-old.

We reached out to Dr. William Haning, a professor at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, to find out more about the dangers of caffeine, especially to children and young adults.

Haning says caffeine alters brain function and behavior, and says it’s best if kids don’t have caffeinated drinks until after puberty.

Caffeine becomes more concerning if the person is taking medication or has a heart problem.

We learned the average person consumes between 100 to 300 milligrams of caffeine each day.

A dangerous amount of caffeine for adults is around 50 grams; 10 grams for kids.

“If I’m going to drink enough coffee in order to create a fatal overdose or an arrhythmia in an otherwise normal healthy human being, I’m probably going to have to drink close to 50 cups of coffee. It’s physically not possible to do that,” said Haning.

But nowadays, caffeine comes in pills.

“Tablets and capsules can be taken very easily in large amounts, so we see this problem in students who are trying to stay awake during exam week,” Haning said.

Haning says some medications can be altered with caffeine, such as “any anti-asthma medications, any medicines taken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or for any psychiatric illness in the child.”

So just how much caffeine is in a drink? According to the USDA, a cup of coffee has 95 milligrams. Energy drinks have about 80 milligrams each. A medium soda has 40 milligrams, and tea has 26 milligrams of caffeine.

But Haning says labels are not so reliable.

“Coffee has an extraordinarily wide range of caffeine content depending on how it’s brewed,” he said.

While there’s more caffeine in a cup of coffee, Haning says be careful when you’re drinking energy drinks. There are a variety of flavors and it’s sweet, so it’s easier to drink.

“In this country, we have a habit of putting soda into kids’ hands at a very early age,” said Haning. “That’s a risky thing to do. It affects behavior. It affects their responsiveness in school or to parents.”

Click here to view a list provided by the FDA of incidents of people getting sick from consuming caffeinated drinks.

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