Energy Drinks & Co: BfR film provides information on health risks posed by caffeine-containing beverages
A new web film from the interactive series "Consumers ask - the BfR answers" of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) provides information on health risks posed by the consumption of caffeine, especially from energy drinks. "There is uncertainty among the public as to how caffeine-containing beverages may affect human health", says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "If you indulge in excessive consumption of energy drinks over a short time, drink large amounts of alcohol at the same time, engage in intensive physical exercise and get little sleep, you could, under certain circumstances, suffer severe health problems." Via the BfR interactive online forum, consumers had the opportunity to ask questions on the topic and then to decide on the most important question. The BfR has answered the three most popular questions in a web film that has just been published at www.bfr.bund.de.
Energy drinks are beverages which often contain high levels of caffeine, usually alongside the other substances taurine, inositol and glucuronolactone. Some case reports describe severe health problems following the consumption of energy drinks. The caffeine contained in energy drinks stimulates the cardiovascular and the central nervous system. In case of high levels of caffeine ingestion, unwanted effects such as increased excitability, racing heartbeat, cardiac arrhythmia and elevated blood pressure can occur.
In the view of the BfR, health risks may result if energy drinks are consumed in high quantities. In addition, there are indications that particularly the simultaneous consumption of large quantities of energy drinks and large amounts of alcohol and / or extensive physical exercise increases the risk of negative health effects. The recommendation for certain consumer groups such as children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and caffeine-sensitive persons therefore is to refrain from consuming such energy drinks.
In the online tool "Consumers ask - the BfR answers", consumers were particularly interested in questions relating to the risk assessment of energy drinks compared to other caffeine-containing beverages. Energy drinks contain about 80 mg caffeine per can (250 ml) and thus, together with filter coffee - are amongst the beverages that contain the highest levels of caffeine. One energy drink can contains roughly the same amount of caffeine as a large cup (200 ml) of filter coffee and about twice as much as a cup of black tea. Compared to a can of Cola or a cup of green tea, energy drinks contain more than twice the amount of caffeine.
For healthy adults the ingestion of up to 200 mg of caffeine, i.e. about two cups of coffee or two cans of energy drinks within a short time are seen as safe. In the course of a whole day, adults can drink about twice that amount. This does not apply to pregnant and breastfeeding women. They should not have more than 2 cups of coffee in the course of a day. Due to their lower bodyweight, children and adolescents can tolerate less.
This information does not constitute a recommendation by the BfR, it merely states the upper quantities that in the general healthy population are considered to be safe. Sensitivity to caffeine varies greatly between individuals. Thus for some people, even one cup of coffee leads to sleep disturbance. For this reason, sensitive persons should aim for a lower intake of caffeine than the quantities given above. For some population groups, elevated caffeine intake can lead to special health risks, e.g. persons with certain cardiovascular diseases. Such persons should refrain from consuming caffeine, especially in high doses.
In Germany, adults predominantly ingest caffeine from coffee. In adolescents in particular, energy drinks in relevant quantities can contribute to the overall intake of caffeine: Surveys among German adolescents from 2012 indicate that energy drinks account for about 10%. Even children already consume caffeine, especially from chocolate. A bar of dark chocolate contains roughly the same amount of caffeine as a cup of black tea which is roughly equivalent to half a can of energy drink. A bar of whole milk chocolate contains one quarter of the caffeine contents of a can of energy drink.
Further information on the effects of caffeine and a counter for caffeine intake is provided by the portal of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) at: www.check-deine-dosis.de
About the BfR
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.
This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.