Urine excretion of caffeine and select caffeine metabolites is common in the US population and associated with caffeine intake

Michael E. Rybak, Maya R. Sternberg, Ching I. Pao, Namanjeet Ahluwalia, Christine M. Pfeiffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Background: Caffeine is a widely consumed psychoactive stimulant and is of epidemiologic interest. Major sources of caffeine are challenging to standardize, and the use of biomarkers is proposed as an alternative means of assessing intake. Objective:Wedescribed urine caffeine and caffeine metabolite concentrations (n = 2466) and excretion rates (n = 2261) in the US population ≥6 y by age, sex, race-ethnicity, and caffeine intake (from foods, beverages, and dietary supplements). Methods: We measured caffeine and 14 of its metabolites in spot urine samples from the cross-sectional NHANES 2009-2010 by use of LC-tandem mass spectrometry. Results: Caffeine and its metabolites were detectable in the urine of most persons, generally at concentrations ≥1 μmol/L. Median concentrations (95%CI) ranged from0.560 (0.497, 0.620) μmol/L to 58.6 (48.6, 67.2) μmol/L; median excretion rates from 0.423 (0.385, 0.468) nmol/min to 46.0 (40.7, 50.2) nmol/min. Urine concentrations and excretion rates for 9 analytes (caffeine, theophylline, paraxanthine, 1-methylxanthine, 1-methyluric acid, 1,3-dimethyluric acid, 1,7-dimethyluric acid, 1,3,7-trimethyluric acid, and 5-acetylamino-6-amino-3-methyluracil) had moderate correlations with caffeine intake (Spearman ρ = 0.55-0.68, P < 0.0001); the remaining analytes had low correlations (ρ = 0.15-0.33, P < 0.0001). We observed larger differences in geometricmean concentrations and excretion rates between the highest vs. lowest quartiles of caffeine intake for these 9 compounds than the rest. Consistent with dietary caffeine intake, we observed that urine concentrations and excretion rates for most compounds were significantly (P < 0.05) higher in men than women, non-Hispanic whites than Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks, and highest in persons aged 40-59 y. Conclusion: Excretion of caffeine and its metabolites in urine is common in the US population. According to the observed associations between spot urine concentrations or excretion rates with caffeine intake, several of these compounds show promise as potential biomarkers of caffeine intake.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)766-774
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Urine excretion of caffeine and select caffeine metabolites is common in the US population and associated with caffeine intake'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this