Caffeine and Health
Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks, chocolate and some medicines. Canadians get about 60% of caffeine from coffee and 30% from tea. For children, most caffeine comes from cola drinks.
In healthy adults, a small amount of caffeine may have positive effects. It can increase alertness and help with concentration. However, some people find that caffeine disturbs sleep, causes headaches, and makes them irritable and nervous. Researchers are also looking at the potential adverse effects of caffeine on:
To protect health, Dietitians of Canada supports Health Canada’s limits on caffeine intake:
- For children:
- Age 12 and under: no more than 2.5 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight
- Age 4-6: 45 mg
- Age 7-9: 62.5 mg
- Age 10-12: 85 mg
- For women of childbearing age: no more than 300 mg caffeine/day.
- For healthy adults: no more than 400 mg caffeine/day.
In March 2010, Health Canada changed the Food and Drug Regulations to allow caffeine to be added to any type of carbonated soft drinks, not just cola. DC is concerned with this decision. It may send mixed messages to consumers regarding caffeine use. On one hand, it is recommended that Canadians limit their daily caffeine intake. Yet, allowing caffeine to be added to non-cola drinks may increase the risk that children and adults will consume too much caffeine. Children may be especially at risk by this decision. Even though caffeinated energy drinks (for example) have warning labels, children are not likely to read or understand them. When children make food and beverage choices without the supervision of a parent, they may choose beverages that are high in caffeine.
DC has advocated for Health Canada to reconsider this decision.
We have written to the Bureau of Food Regulatory International and Interagency Affairs to address this issue.
We have met with Health Canada staff in the Bureau of Nutritional Sciences.
- Between 2011 and 2014, DC responded to each of the consultations on Supplemented Foods and Caffeinated Energy Drinks, which are formerly foods within the NHP Directorate and are now under the authority of the Food Directorate and must comply with Food Regulations. These products contain high amounts of nutrient fortification, representing a category of foods with which DC does not agree are needed or helpful in the food supply. For more information about Dietitians of Canada actions regarding Caffeinated Energy Drinks and Supplemented Foods, see resources below.
In Quebec, Dietitians of Canada joined with other groups including Coalition Poids to call for a ban on energy drinks to children under 18 years.
- Caffeine and carbonated soft drinks
Questions and answers from Health Canada about caffeine added to non-cola beverages
- Caffeine in Food
Information about maximum dose, adverse effects, sources of caffeine and related information about caffeinated energy drinks.
- DC's response to Health Canada's proposed approach to "Supplemented Foods"
(August 2014) - Health Canada released "Category Specific Guidance for Temporary Marketing Authorization: Beverages, Beverage Mixes and Concentrates, Powders, Bars and Confectionaries – Draft document" in June 2014, calling for comments. Dietitians of Canada (DC) surveyed DC members and DC's Regulatory Affairs Advisory Group reviewed this input to shape the response from DC. This category of "supplemented foods" includes all food-like products transitioned from the Natural Health Products Directorate and now sold under temporary marketing authorization.
- DC response to guidance for consumption incident reporting
(December 2013) – DC submitted a response to Health Canada's guidance document for the food industry, in which incident reporting guidance is provided “all TMAL holders for caffeinated energy drinks, other caffeinated products and /or products containing ingredients for which there may be uncertainty regarding long term safety for general use in food". Incident reporting is part of risk assessment during the time that products are marketed under "Temporary Marketing Authorization".
- DC response to updated Health Canada guidance on caffeinated energy drinks
(June 2013) – DC responded to Health Canada’s consultation regarding an updated draft guidance document, following up on an earlier version of category-specific guidance on caffeinated energy drinks published in March 2012. DC will continue to monitor the transition of NHPs to food regulation and future implications for food fortification.
- Caffeinated Energy Drinks in Canada
(March 2013) – a Dietitians of Canada Q & A resource for members, summarizing the current food regulatory environment for caffeinated energy drinks, as marketed in Canada. This resource will be updated as and when changes in Health Canada guidance become available. (English only)
- Energy Drinks Revisited (November 2012)
(2012) – a Dietitians of Canada Current Issues backgrounder on caffeinated energy drinks, including patterns of usage, a review of ingredients, safety and efficacy research, and practice points.
- DC's response to Health Canada's proposed approach to managing energy drinks (November 2011)
(2011) – Health Canada has proposed an approach for managing caffeinated 'energy drinks' as foods rather than as natural health products. Dietitians of Canada submitted a letter along with our formal response to the proposed approach.
- Letter to Health Canada Proposed Addition of Caffeine to Non-Cola Beverages