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Comparing The Different Types of Caffeine

About sixty plant species naturally contain caffeine, a stimulant of the central nervous system.[1] The leaves of tea plants and the beans of coffee plants are the most popular sources of natural caffeine. However, caffeine can be created in a lab as well from Malonic acid and dimethylurea.[2] 

Aside from lattes and espresso shots, caffeine can be present in other products such as energy drinks and bars, pre-workout supplements, and diet pills. Caffeine anhydrous (which is derived from tea and coffee plants) is used to add caffeine to these foods, drinks, and dietary supplements.

You might find variants of caffeine anhydrous that are blended with other substances when reading the labels of supplements. These include:[3] 

  1. Caffeine Citrate: This contains sodium citrate dihydrate and citric acid monohydrate in addition to caffeine anhydrous. Approximately half of the mixture is caffeine. Instead of as a supplement, caffeine citrate is more frequently utilized for medicinal reasons. It is specifically used to treat a respiratory issue in premature newborns.[4]
  2. Caffeine Pterostilbene Co-Crystal: This combines caffeine with the antioxidant pterostilbene, which is a component of blueberries. It can be produced in a variety of forms, including chewables, tablets, and capsules. Manufacturers claim that this type of caffeine produces greater prolonged energy, however there is no evidence to support this from research.
  3. Dicaffeine Malate: This is composed of a malic acid molecule and two molecules of caffeine. Many of the foods you consume, including apples, contain malic acid, an organic acid. Malic acid and caffeine together are supposed to prevent gastrointestinal distress, according to the ingredient's manufacturers, but this hasn't been proven.

Caffeine Anhydrous VS. Caffeine:

Caffeine Anhydrous

The pros of caffeine anhydrous (synthetic form of caffeine) is that it can provide a more standard dose in comparison with brewed drinks, be more convenient to ingest in the form of a pill, gum, or gel, and it can improve athletic performance. 

The cons of caffeine anhydrous include the fact that it is available in a pure, powdered form that is extremely strong and can cause an overdose with just a tiny measurement error, making it possible to accidentally consume a lethal overdose.[5]


Caffeine's pros include being widely available and safe to drink in moderation, promoting alertness and decreasing fatigue due to its central nervous system stimulant properties, easing tension headaches when combined with painkillers, and enhancing sports performance.

Caffeine’s cons include its difficulty to measure (brewed drinks' caffeine content varies depending on brew time and water content), the risk of irregular heartbeat from excessive consumption, the worsening of anxiety or insomnia, and the possibility of dehydration from excessive urination.

Bottom Line: The FDA recommends that healthy adults can consume up to 400 mg of caffeine per day in any form without adverse side effects.[6] That is equivalent to about 4 or 5 cups of regular strength coffee. Keep in mind that one teaspoon of pure powdered anhydrous caffeine is equivalent to 2700 milligrams of caffeine—that’s roughly 28 cups of coffee, so be careful of the dose you take. Individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid caffeine anhydrous.


  1. Planning Committee for a Workshop on Potential Health Hazards Associated with Consumption of Caffeine, Food and Nutrition Board, Board on Health Sciences Policy, & Institute of Medicine. (2014). Introduction. National Academies Press.
  2. Akomolafe, S. F. (2017). The effects of caffeine, caffeic acid, and their combination on acetylcholinesterase, adenosine deaminase and arginase activities linked with brain function. Journal of Food Biochemistry, 41(5), e12401.
  3. U.S. Department of Defense Dietary Supplement Resource. Caffeine: different names, different forms.
  4. Parikka, V., Beck, J., Zhai, Q., Leppäsalo, J., Lehtonen, L., & Soukka, H. (2015). The effect of caffeine citrate on neural breathing pattern in preterm infants. Early Human Development, 91(10), 565–568.
  5. Jabbar, S. B., & Hanly, M. G. (2013). Fatal caffeine overdose: A case report and review of literature. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 34(4), 321–324.
  6. Spilling the beans: How much caffeine is too much? U.S. Food and Drug Administration; FDA. Retrieved October 16, 2022. 

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