Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Do Your Patients Consume Enough Caffeine?

Aaron B. Holley, MD


August 19, 2015

In This Article

First Dietary Recommendations on Caffeine

Caffeine has been an integral part of my personal life since I was a resident in internal medicine, back when work-hour restrictions were not yet in vogue. It has since become a major part of my day-to-day practice as a sleep medicine physician.

Back when I was a sleep medicine fellow in training, my program director told me that he provided modafinil (Provigil®) to patients because he felt that they would otherwise abuse caffeine. At the time, this seemed a practice worth considering but one that rested on the assumption that caffeine is harmful. Now, I aim to provide a professional (not personal) opinion on the effects of caffeine.

A few months ago, several major news organizations covered a report from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) that made official recommendations on caffeine use.[1] This committee does not make policy, but it does advise the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture on important aspects of diet and nutrition. The short version is that the committee found strong evidence that moderate consumption of coffee (three to five cups of coffee or up to 400 mg of caffeine daily) is not associated with chronic disease risk. They also found moderate observational evidence that coffee consumption is associated with reduced risk for some diseases. The report was newsworthy for several reasons:

  • According to the news agencies, caffeine had not specifically been mentioned in dietary guidelines in the past;

  • Caffeine is often cited as being the "most used" bioactive substance in the world [2.3]—American adults consume more than 4 million cups of coffee per day [4]; and

  • Caffeine use has always been controversial.[2,5]


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