According to the county coroner, 16-year-old South Carolina high school student David Allen Cripe collapsed during class and tragically died from a caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia. During an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body, and lack of blood flow affects the brain, heart and other organs. Cripe apparently drank three caffeine-laced drinks in two hours: a latte, large Diet Mountain Dew, then collapsed in his classroom at Spring Hill High School on April 26th (source: CNN.)
So where does this tragic news leave moms, infamous for caffeine consumption to get through the day on sometimes little to no sleep?
How much caffeine can I drink a day?
"Most people can safely take in about 400 milligrams of caffeine daily or about 4 cups of coffee," says Dr. Christopher Calapai D.O., a New York City Osteopathic Physician board certified in family and anti-aging medicine. He adds that, “the limit varies from person to person.” It’s difficult to assign an exact amount for everyone because people can have different sensitivities or reactions to caffeine based on age, medical history, and tolerance. However, there is enough research available to make a recommendation based on an individual’s weight.
To keep it safe, health experts recommend a maximum daily dose of 400 mg. To see what this means for you, check out the caffeine in some of these common drinks:
Starbucks Coffee (16 fl oz): 320 mg caffeine
5-hour energy (1.93 fl oz): 207 mg caffeine
Dunkin Donuts regular (16 fl oz): 203 mg caffeine
Starbucks Latte (16 fl oz): 150 mg caffeine
Coffee, brewed (8 fl oz): 133 mg caffeine
Red Bull Energy Shot (2 fl oz): 80 mg caffeine
Red Bull (8 fl oz): 80 mg caffeine
Tea (8 fl oz): 53 mg caffeine
How is it possible to get sick or die from too much caffeine?
Like other stimulants, caffeine raises blood pressure, boosts heart rate, and temporarily shrinks blood vessels. In excess, the effects can be deadly by causing a heart attack, stroke or other cardio-vascular-related problem, explains Dr. Calapai. "Researchers think daily caffeine intake can increase the risk of coronary heart disease, but the results so far have been inconclusive.”
It’s also important to realize that medical conditions can affect sensitivity to caffeine. “If you have anxiety, panic disorder, heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure, diabetes, take medication or have any sort of medical condition, then you may tolerate less caffeine and should speak to a doctor,” says Dr. Calapai.
What are “caffeine overdose symptoms” to be on the lookout for?
Jitters, Restlessness, and Nervousness
Heart palpitations (cardiac arrhythmia)
I personally can only drink coffee in the early hours or I have difficulty falling asleep at night. I also notice my heart racing if I drink too much caffeine and I once developed an eye twitch, which scared me to death! While I definitely run into an afternoon slump, I try to avoid caffeine in favor of going for a walk or drinking some cold sparkling water.
Are you concerned about your caffeine intake?