Energy Drinks and Caffeine

In 2017, a 16-year old was pronounced dead due to “too much caffeine.”  The county coroner reported that the deceased had consumed a caffeinated latte, soft drink, and energy drink within 2 hours before his death.  This caffeine rush may have triggered sudden cardiac arrest and his eventual death.  This begs the question of how much caffeine is too much.  What consumption level is “safe” and what beverages offer the most or least caffeine?

Because caffeine acts as a stimulant and can increase heart rate and blood pressure, consumers typically drink caffeinated beverages to stay awake (AED 2018).  The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) reports that consuming moderate caffeine levels (i.e., 400 milligrams [mg] or three to four 8-ounce cups of coffee daily) is safe for the general, healthy population.  However, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages caffeine use by children and adolescents (FDA 2013).

Consuming caffeine slowly and within the moderate range is always the best strategy.  Track the caffeine you consume throughout the day including coffee, soft drinks, food, and non-food products (e.g., medications).   Be aware that additives (e.g., sugars and artificial sweeteners) may also contain caffeine (AED 2018).  Table 1 lists caffeine levels for various popular beverages.


Caffeine Content

8 oz. of brewed black coffee

~65 to 195 mg

12 oz. of Red Bull®

111 mg

16 oz. of Rockstar

165 mg

16 oz. of Monster

172 mg

2 oz. of 5-Hour Energy®

215 mg

8 oz. of green tea

~25 mg

8 oz. of black tea

~45 to 50 mg

8 oz. of soft drink

~30 to 60 mg

Caffeinated drink manufacturers generally warn consumers that their beverage is “not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, and persons sensitive to caffeine.”  However, beverages may not list caffeine levels per serving.  Therefore, consumers must understand their own caffeine restrictions and keep track of their daily caffeine levels.  Parents also need to educate their children on caffeine effects, safe consumption levels, and healthy, non-caffeine alternatives (FI 2018).


AED Superstore® (AED).  2018.  AED Talk: Energy Drinks and Sudden Death. Available from: http://www.aedsuperstore.com/blogs/energy-drinks-sudden-death/


Food Insight (FI).  2018.  Everything You Need to Know About Caffeine.  Available from: http://foodinsight.org/everything-about-caffeine-science-amount-safety#Caffeine.

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Brian Pelan
Brian Pelan
OSE Director, Laramie, WY

Brian has over 20 years of professional experience in environmental, health, safety, and security (EHS&S). His areas of expertise include EHS&S risk management; ISO systems management & auditing; fluid recovery/recycling; and industrial hygiene services.
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