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Can I overdose on caffeine?

Andrea C. Bryan, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Yes, it is possible to overdose on caffeine. A toxic dose for an average adult is greater than 10 grams of caffeine. Typically used doses are <500mg. Signs of caffeine toxicity include restlessness, fidgeting, anxiety, excitement, muscle twitching, irritability, gastrointestinal distress, irregular heartbeat, mania, hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis.

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Randolph P. Martin, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
It is very hard to overdose on caffeine but if you drink more than 60 cups of coffee in a single sitting then you could certainly suffer from caffeine intoxication. A different question though is, is coffee good for me or bad for me?  Coffee has actually been one of the substances that have been blamed for everything from heart disease to cancer. Coffee is a complex brew of greater than a thousand chemicals and it contains about 2% caffeine (if it's not decaffeinated) and about 98% other chemical substances, many of which are antioxidants.  These substances are so-called polyphenols and are felt to be very good for you. There have been over 19,000 studies of the health benefits and health risks of coffee and the bottom line is that there is scientifically sound evidence that coffee may decrease the risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, liver cirrhosis and potentially even Parkinson's.  Studies done on women—the Iowa Women's Health Study—showed that women who drank one to three cups of coffee a day had a 20% decreased risk of heart disease. Interestingly it didn't matter whether it was caffeinated or un-caffeinated. There was one concern though that non-filtered type coffee may increase the risk of raising your cholesterol values, and that could increase your risk of heart disease. There have been no studies that conclusively showed that drinking coffee can cause high blood pressure.  And as mentioned, numerous studies have clearly shown that drinking coffee does decrease your risk of developing type II diabetes, as well as being less likely to develop gallstones. The fact that drinking coffee decreases the risk of gallstones is due to the caffeine in the coffee stimulating the gallbladder to contract and, hence, more completely empty the bile from the gallbladder, making it less likely that bile gallstones will develop.  Some interesting studies recently have shown that coffee drinkers are less likely to develop gallstones because coffee and in fact the caffeine in the coffee stimulates the gallbladder to contract hence there is less sludging or stagnant bile to form the gallstones in the gallbladder. So the bottom line is that drinking coffee has many positive benefits, but as with anything, it’s probably best to do it in moderation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.