Coffee, tea, caffeinated soda, and energy drinks are important sources of caffeine in the diet but each present with other unique nutritional properties. We review how our increased knowledge and concern with regard to caffeine in the diet and its impact on human health has been translated into food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG). Using the Food and Agriculture Organization list of 90 countries with FBDG as a starting point, we found reference to caffeine or caffeine-containing beverages (CCB) in 81 FBDG and CCB consumption data (volume sales) for 56 of these countries. Tea and soda are the leading CCB sold in African and Asian/Pacific countries while coffee and soda are preferred in Europe, North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Key themes observed across FBDG include (i) caffeine-intake upper limits to avoid risks, (ii) CCB as replacements for plain water, (iii) CCB as added-sugar sources, and (iv) health benefits of CCB consumption. In summary, FBDG provide an unfavorable view of CCB by noting their potential adverse/unknown effects on special populations and their high sugar content, as well as their diuretic, psycho-stimulating, and nutrient inhibitory properties. Few FBDG balanced these messages with recent data supporting potential benefits of specific beverage types.
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