Moderate caffeine intake of 300 mg per day has no adverse health effects for healthy adults, concluded a review that sought to shed light on controversies surrounding the ingredient.
The review, Caffeine and Health: Clarifying the Controversies carried out by the International Food Information Council Federation (IFIC), examined its safety using the latest scientific research on the topic.
This is a timely review for industry on the state of play for caffeine, which is being added to increasing numbers of new food and drink products, such as and energy drinks.
While Asia Pacific is the top region for producing energy drinks, North America has overtaken western Europe to hold the next largest share at 15 per cent. From small beginnings, its average growth since 1999 has been an impressive 68 per cent a year.
The US is now expected to become the largest national market by 2009.
Caffeine is also used in soft drinks as a flavoring agent and has even reached some more unusual applications, such as bakery products. Inventor Dr Robert Bohannon collaborated with food industry experts to come up with a patent-pending microencapsulation process to allow the inclusion of very small caffeine particles to create energy food.
However, at the same time, it is being overshadowed with some bad press on the effects on health caffeine could have.
"The purpose of this review was to answer as many questions about caffeine and health as possible in a single document," said Lindsey Monroe, director of Food Ingredient Communications at IFIC.
Clarification is important as consumers continue to include caffeine in their daily diet. The average person consumes approximately 120 mg of caffeine per day, representing a mean intake of 1.73 mg/kg of body weight, according to a 2004 study by Knight et al.
Children consume significantly less than adults. In 2004, the average daily intake of caffeine by children aged between one and five and six and nine was 14mg and 22mg per day respectively.
Review of negative health effects
While healthy adults can consume caffeine with no negative effects on health, those with hypertension and the elderly may be more vulnerable, said the review.
Also, regular caffeine drinkers may experience some short-lived withdrawal symptoms if they stop consuming caffeine.
There have been many studies looking at the link between caffeine and both cancer and coronary heart disease, but according to the review, there is no evidence to show caffeine can cause these diseases.
Most studies have found caffeine consumption does not have an adverse effect on bone mineral density in women, it said, as long as they consume adequate calcium.
Additionally, caffeine should not pose any harm to pregnant women, as long as they limit their consumption to three cups of coffee a day, thereby not exceeding 300 mg per day.
Some studies have found caffeine can cause some benefits to health, such as helping reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, liver disease, and colorectal cancer, said the review.
Furthermore, it has been commonly reported to improve alertness and aid in concentration, a concept widely accepted as many consumers turn to caffeine as a pick-me-up.
"Recent studies in a number of laboratories have consistently demonstrated increases in key aspects of cognitive function related to alertness, even among well-rested volunteers," said the report.
And a study at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research in Montpellier, France found consumption of at least three cups of coffee each day is associated with a slower rate of decline in cognitive performance in women.
As well as improving mental performance, studies have found that caffeine may aid physical performance, resulting in it being added to many sports drinks.
"Consuming 6 mg/kg body weight of caffeine, or about five 8-ounce cups of coffee for a 155 lb. male, significantly increased muscle endurance during brief, intense exercise (4-6 min) performed by recreational athletes [Jackman, et al 1996]," said the report.
For example, one study by Cox et al on cyclists, moderate levels of caffeine (6 mg/kg) was found to enhance the performance times during a cycling trial. This result was observed whether caffeine was ingested one hour before exercise or in a series of administrations throughout the trial.