How much caffeine is too much?
Is caffeine bad for my heart? And how much caffeine is too much?
BHF dietitian Victoria Taylor says:
While there is often concern about the links between caffeine and heart health, a moderate amount of tea or coffee (four or five cups a day) should be fine for most people. Research shows that this level of intake shouldn’t be detrimental to your heart health, affect your cholesterol levels or heart rhythm.
Although drinking coffee has been shown to increase blood pressure, this effect is usually temporary and is minimised over time if you drink caffeinated drinks regularly. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine and can experience palpitations. If this is you, then it’s sensible to avoid caffeine. Remember that caffeine is found in quite a few sources including: tea, green tea, coffee, energy drinks, cola and chocolate.
Sugar, syrups, whole milk and cream add calories and saturated fat that could cause weight gain and increase cholesterol levels
Energy drinks have a bad reputation for their caffeine content, but in reality they contain 80mg of caffeine per 250ml – that’s less than a mug of instant coffee, which has 100mg, and only slightly more than a mug of tea, which has 75mg. However, there are other reasons why you might want to avoid energy drinks. They can contain nearly seven teaspoons of sugar in one 250ml can – that’s the maximum amount we should be consuming in a whole day. So if you enjoy energy drinks, choose sugar-free versions where possible.
Two recent studies suggested that drinking coffee was linked to longer life expectancy, but we need more research to understand what is behind this link. We know that moderate amounts don’t seem to have a negative impact on your heart.
It’s probably more important to think about how you take your coffee. Sugar, syrups, whole milk and cream add calories and saturated fat that could cause weight gain and increase cholesterol levels. Drinking coffee unsweetened, and swapping whole milk for skimmed, one per cent or semi-skimmed, could help your heart health more than focusing on caffeine.
Meet the expert
Victoria Taylor is a registered dietitian with 20 years’ experience. Her work for the NHS focused on weight management and community programmes for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. She leads the BHF's work on nutrition.