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Your Daily Routine

Coffee drinking in moderation, four to five cups per day, can contribute to a healthy, balanced diet for the general population and may confer health benefits. However pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to 200mg caffeine per day, from all sources including tea, coffee, chocolate and energy drinks in line with advice provided by the NHS 1. It has been suggested that caffeine, the naturally occurring mild central nervous system stimulant found in tea, coffee, and cocoa is an addictive substance. This is simply not the case.

Coffee and Habituation

Two woman enjoying a coffee outside in the sunshineTo enjoy a cup of coffee on a regular basis may be a habit, but habit and addiction are very different and should not be confused. Indeed, the World Health Organization has stated, `There is no evidence whatsoever that caffeine use has even remotely comparable physical and social consequences which are associated with serious drugs of abuse’ 2.

Research by reputable scientists has shown that caffeine in moderate amounts does not act on the areas of the brain related to reward, motivation and addiction 3. Put simply, this means that caffeine does not work on the brain in the same way as drugs that are known to be addictive, such as amphetamines and cocaine.

Some sectors of the scientific community report that individuals who decide to stop drinking caffeinated beverages will experience unpleasant `withdrawal’ symptoms such as headache or lethargy. It is true to say that sudden reduction in caffeine intake by regular consumers may lead to mild symptoms of withdrawal in a small percentage of individuals who are sensitive to caffeine. However, this is not the case for the majority of the population. Research published in 2000 reported that those people who reduced their intake gradually reported minimal, if any, caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

A recent comprehensive review of the available data concluded, “Thus caffeine use meets neither the common sense nor the scientific definitions of an addictive substance” 3,4.


Although many people drink caffeine-containing coffee on a regular basis, and coffee drinking may well be a habit, this does not amount to addiction but is simply an enjoyable part of everyday life. The overwhelming scientific research shows that coffee drinking in moderation, four to five cups per day, can contribute to a healthy, balanced diet for the general population and may confer health benefits. Pregnant women should however moderate their intake following the guidelines issued by the Food Standards Agency, to 200mg caffeine per day from all sources.


1. NHS Choices, accessed June 2013 -
2. World Health Organisation (WHO). The ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioral disorders. World Health Organisation: Geneva, 1994.
3. Nehlig A, et al. SPECT assessment of brain activation induced by caffeine: no effect on areas involved in dependence. Dialogues Clin Neurosci, 2010; 12:255-63.
4. Addicott MA, et al. A comparison of the effects of caffeine following abstinence and normal caffeine use. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 2009; 207:423-31.