QuestionCan you fatally overdose on coffee?
Hopes&Fears answers questions from our readers and friends, with the help of people who know what they're talking about. Today, we wonder about death and caffeine.
As you pour yourself your second, third, or fourteenth cup of coffee this morning, you might be asking yourself, is this bad? Is this too much? How much is too much, really, and how bad is that? Will I permanently deplete my adrenaline? Can the jitters lead to a stroke? Can I... die? We consult the experts for answers.
America's Test Kitchen, Science Editor
Caffeine has an LD50 dose in rats (the dose necessary to kill half of the test rats) of 192 milligrams per kilogram. Extrapolating this into the human population, 12 grams of caffeine would be lethal for a 125-pound adult. This amount of caffeine is contained in 118 cups (240 milliliters per cup) of coffee. So, yes, caffeine can literally be lethal, but would require consuming a massive quantity of coffee.
FDA, Press Officer
For healthy adults, FDA has cited 400 milligrams a day—that's about four or five cups of coffee—as an amount not generally associated with dangerous, negative effects. We note that pregnant women are advised to consume less caffeine and that the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages caffeine consumption in children and adolescents.
Over the years, FDA has been considering the state of the science for the potential health effects of caffeine, including cardiovascular and central nervous system effects, with an emphasis on specific populations, such as pregnant women or children. We asked the Institute of Medicine to conduct a workshop to consider these concerns. The workshop summary is available online at the Institute of Medicine. FDA is continuing to review the science and data related to caffeine safety and caffeine intake.
COVER ILLUSTRATION: Sergii Rodionov