Caffeine is a substance found in certain plants like the tea and coffee plants, but it can also be man-made and added to certain foods.

What are its health benefits?

There is no nutritional need for caffeine but it increases energy and mental alertness. It is a stimulant and a diuretic.

Caffeine supplementation may have the following benefits:

  • It is used in bodybuilding and by athletes to assist in energy production and, before a workout, to assist with stamina and endurance
  • Supporting brain function
  • Supporting memory and performance by activating dopamine
  • Assisting in the management of heart disease

There is evidence of the use of caffeine in the treatment of asthma, migraines, gallbladder disease, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), low blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Find it in these food sources

Caffeine is widely consumed globally. It is found naturally in more than 60 plants, including:

  • Tea leaves
  • Kola nuts
  • Coffee
  • Cocoa beans

It is also found in processed foods:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Sugary drinks such as Coca-Cola (unless labelled “caffeine-free”)
  • Chocolate bars, energy drinks, snacks and gum

Caffeine is often added to over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers, diet pills and cold medicines.

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

The typical guideline for safe caffeine consumption is up to 300mg daily (about three cups of coffee or six cups of tea).

Warnings

Experts debate the best way to get caffeine into your body. Many agree that too much coffee (a high caffeine content) can increase insulin sensitivity, the risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease, and anxiety.

Some studies have found that coffee doesn’t produce the same performance-enhancing benefits as pure caffeine pills. But some health experts warn against caffeine pills.

Tea is considered healthier than coffee as it contains more antioxidants but it also contains less caffeine.

As caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, regular intake causes mild physical dependence or even caffeine addiction.

If you stop taking caffeine abruptly, or take a caffeine detox, you may have caffeine withdrawal symptoms for a day or more. These include:

Caffeine during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not recommended as it increases your blood pressure and heart rate and can lead to dehydration.

If you are considering taking caffeine supplements, first talk to your doctor or Clicks pharmacist about whether you should be taking it and the correct dosage if so. 

Possible side effects

Possible caffeine side effects could include:
• Fast heart rate
Anxiety
Depression
• Sleep problems
• Nausea
• Restlessness
• Tremors
• Urinating more often

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in September 2015