We typically think of caffeine as the magical ingredient in coffee, soda and energy drinks that gives us an extra boost or keeps us awake at night, but there’s more to caffeine than a quick buzz. Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical compound produced in certain plants to protect them against insects. By stimulating the central nervous system and temporarily blocking adenosine, the chemical in our body that makes us feel drowsy, caffeine makes humans feel alert and energized. Unlike humans though, many insects and pests do not have the same ability to process caffeine which results in death or paralysis when feeding on a plant containing the chemical.
Ex5 Podcast Episode 8: Coffee
While humans may experience increased mental and physical performance from consumption of caffeine in moderation, over-consumption (more than 400mg per day) can lead to irritability, nervousness and inability to sleep. While those symptoms of a caffeine overdose may be unpleasant, they typically subside after the caffeine has been processed by your body. Even though it’s technically possible for a human to consume enough caffeine that the symptoms result in death, it is highly unlikely. That’s because in order to get the amount of caffeine in one’s blood to a lethal level, it would require around 3000mg of caffeine be consumed in very quick succession. For perspective, the average cup of coffee has about 100mg, a 12oz Red Bull has 111mg and a 2oz “extra strength” 5 Hour Energy shot has 242mg. Consuming 30 cups of coffee, 27 Red Bulls or 12 5 Hour Energy shots in quick succession, while possible, would be extremely difficult.
There are powdered and tablet forms of caffeine used for medical purposes, which pose a much more significant health risk if misused. In cases where pure caffeine is being consumed it’s important to take only what has been prescribed by a medical professional to avoid a potentially lethal overdose.