Verify: Can Caffeine Kill You?

Verify: Can caffeine kill you?

After we told you about a South Carolina teen who reportedly died from a caffeine overdose, many of you asked: can caffeine kill you?

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts, said 16-year-old Davis Allen Cripe drank a large Diet Mountain Dew, a McDonald’s latte and an energy drink over the course of about two hours.

Watts says the caffeine likely caused a “caffeine induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia,” especially since the teen didn’t have a history of any medical problems that would be affected by the caffeine.

Our WFAA Verify team checked with Dr. Colin Kane, Pediatric Cardiologist and Director of Cardiology Outreach at UT Southwestern and Children’s Health, the FDA and the Mayo Clinic.

By our estimates, Davis drank anywhere between 300 and 750 milligrams of caffeine.

The Mayo Clinic says that’s too much for an adult – let alone a teenager.

Dr. Kane agreed, saying, “children and adolescents really shouldn’t be drinking caffeine at all. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no caffeine-containing drinks for children and adolescents.”

That’s because caffeine is a stimulant, which can increase your blood pressure and heart rate.

In fact, a Mayo Clinic study found just one energy drink can increase your blood pressure enough to significantly raise your risk of heart problems.

“In moderation, caffeine is not harmful,” Dr. Kane noted, “but if you take an excessive amount and if you are prone to arrhythmias or abnormal heartbeats, then caffeine can be dangerous.”

So how much is too much? The FDA says 600 milligrams of caffeine or more, that’s about seven cups of coffee, is too much. That amount can lead to caffeine overdose, which can be fatal.

So, yes, caffeine can kill you, if you consume enough – and especially if you have other health problems that caffeine can make worse.

Sources:

Dr. Colin Kane, Pediatric Cardiologist and Director of Cardiology Outreach at UT Southwestern and Children’s Health

The Mayo Clinic

The Food and Drug Administration

For nutrition facts:

The Facts of Your Favorite Beverages 

Starbucks vs. McDonalds McCafe - Calories, Caffeine and Cash

Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda

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