Quercetin, a phenolic flavonoid found in small quantities in some fruits and vegetables, is an adenosine receptor antagonist in vitro marketed as a dietary supplement for purported caffeine-like effects. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, between-subjects study was conducted to compare the behavioral effects of quercetin to a central adenosine receptor antagonist, caffeine. Fifty-seven volunteers received either 2000 mg of quercetin dihydrate (a dose estimated based on in vitro receptor binding to be equivalent in potency to 200 mg of caffeine), placebo, or 200 mg of caffeine. One hour later, a 45-minute visual vigilance task was administered. The Profile of Mood States questionnaire was completed before treatment and immediately after vigilance testing. On the vigilance task, caffeine increased the number of stimuli detected (P < 0.02) and decreased the reaction time (P = 0.001). Caffeine increased self-reported vigor and reduced fatigue and total mood disturbance Profile of Mood States scores compared with placebo. Quercetin did not significantly alter any parameter, but values were typically intermediate between caffeine and placebo on those tests affected by caffeine. Quercetin is unlikely to have any effects when consumed by humans in quantities present in the diet or in dietary supplements. Caffeine (200 mg) administration resulted in the expected effects on vigilance and mood.