This paper is a “plain language summary” of the comprehensive 2017 systematic review on the adverse health outcomes associated with caffeine in healthy adults, pregnant women, adolescents and children. The authors of the systematic review were invited to develop this summary by the co-editors of Nutrients, for inclusion in a special journal issue on caffeine.
In 2016⁻2017, we conducted and published a systematic review on caffeine safety that set out to determine whether conclusions that were presented in the heavily cited Health Canada assessment, remain supported by more recent data. To that end, we reviewed data from 380 studies published between June 2001 and June 2015, which were identified from an initial batch of over 5000 articles through a stringent search and evaluation process. In the current paper, we use plain language to summarize our process and findings, with the intent of sharing additional context for broader reach to the general public. We addressed whether caffeine doses previously determined not to be associated with adverse effects by Health Canada (400 mg/day for healthy adults, 300 mg/day for pregnant women, 2.5 mg/kg body weight/day for adolescents and children, and 10 g/day for acute effects) remain appropriate for five outcome areas (acute toxicity, cardiovascular toxicity, bone & calcium effects, behavior, and development and reproduction) in healthy adults, pregnant women, adolescents, and children. We used a weight-of-evidence approach to draw conclusions for each of the five outcomes, as well as more specific endpoints within those outcomes, which considered study quality, consistency, level of adversity, and magnitude of response. In general, updated evidence confirms the levels of intake that were put forth by Health Canada in 2003 as not being associated with any adverse health effects, and our results support a shift in caffeine research from healthy to sensitive populations.