Many products are loaded with the stuff, but it might not be so bad for you after all. You probably perk up just at the thought of your morning joe or afternoon soda break, but maybe you feel guilty about downing all of that caffeine. Well, you can relax- unless you’re knocking back coffee by the potful, you might not need to kick your caffeine habit.
Caffeine can actually be good for your health
Yes, it’s true! In addition to making you feel more alert, moderate caffeine intake can actually improve your mental and physical performance, research shows. Caffeine might improve your mood, too. A recent analysis of the long-running Nurses Health Study revealed a reduced risk of depression among drinkers of caffeinated – but not decaf – coffee.
Other perks associated with modest caffeine consumption include protection against gallstones and Parkinson’s disease. But of course, there’s a downside to overdoing it. Too much caffeine can cause jitters and tremors and in some susceptible people can trigger a panic attack. Caffeine can increase blood pressure and aggravate heart arrhythmias but that people who consume caffeine regularly develop a tolerance to most of its side effects.
Still, even if you can down several espressos without getting the shakes, that doesn’t mean you should. Over the long term, excessive caffeine intake can cause you to lose more calcium through your urine than non-indulgers; that calcium loss might weaken bones and increase your risk of kidney stones.
Some people need to be more careful about overdoing it
Up to 300 milligrams of caffeine daily is safe for most people. That’s about what you’ll find in three cups of regular coffee. But some people should use extra caution.
- People with coronary heart disease should have no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day, and they should wait to exercise for at least 5 hours after consuming any. That’s because caffeine might reduce blood flow to the heart, which could increase the risk of dizziness, fainting, and heart problems in people whose hearts are already compromised by disease.
- Osteoporosis sufferers should talk to their doctor about whether caffeine is safe, especially if they take the bone-building drug alendronate (Fosamax and generic) because caffeine can make it less effective.
- Pregnant women should consume less than 200 milligrams daily. Higher doses are linked to low birth weights in babies. One study found that drinking more than five cups of coffee daily increased the risk of spontaneous abortion.
- People with anxiety, heart palpitations, tremors, headaches, or sleeplessness might want to cut back on caffeine to see whether it helps reduce their symptom.
Children are affected more easily than adults
In 2010, of the 3,328 calls to U.S. poison centers about a caffeine product, 62 percent were for people 19 or younger. One culprit, according to government health officials, is energy drinks. The hypercaffeinated beverages – with names like Amp, Monster, Red Bull, and Rockstar – are marketed to appeal to kids and teens, and some can contain more than three times as much caffeine per serving as colas.
The maximum amount of caffeine children and adolescents can safely consume is 100 milligrams daily according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Kids who overdo it risk sleep problems, harm to developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems, and even seizures and death.
It’s not easy to know how much caffeine you’re getting
You might think you’re getting about the same amount no matter what, but coffee-shop offerings vary widely, and so do other similar products. For example, a venti (20-ounce) Starbucks Bold Pick of the Day contains a pulse-revving 415 milligrams of caffeine – 70 percent more than the same size cup of Dunkin Donuts regular coffee.
To make matters worse, manufacturers don’t have to disclose the amount of caffeine in a product. They just have to tell whether it has been added, as in colas or energy drinks. Caffeine that occurs naturally in chocolate, tea, or botanical ingredients such as guarana or taurine doesn’t have to be listed.
If you don’t see caffeine info on a label, check the company’s website or contact customer service.
Caffeine is technically not addictive, really!
But it is tough to kick, you can clearly become physically dependent on caffeine, but that isn’t the same thing as addiction, in which you have a compulsion to use a substance and can’t easily quit even if you need or want to. But you are still likely to experience withdrawal symptoms such as headache and tiredness if you stop cold turkey.
To cut back without feeling miserable, do it slowly. If you’re a coffee drinker, swap part of your regular brew for decaf and gradually increase the decaf. Try replacing highly caffeinated drinks with lower-caf tea.
Java junkies can now blame their genes
Caffeine consumption is linked to two genes – one that governs the desire to consume caffeine and one that determines how it’s metabolized – according to recent analyses of the human genome. That’s probably why some people crave caffeine more than others or can drink coffee after dinner and sleep like a baby.
One way to cut back Order iced coffee in the same size as your regular cup. The more ice, the less caffeine.
How much caffeine?
The nutrition pros took a look at some widely sold foods, drinks, and other products to see how caffeinated they really are. Finding the amounts of caffeine lurking inside wasn’t always easy, which is why it’s tricky to monitor how much caffeine you’re taking in. they looked at labels and websites and called manufacturers when info wasn’t otherwise available. What they found was eye-opening: There can be big differences among very similar products such as cups of coffee, varieties of tea, and cans of soda. They also found caffeine in some places you’d never think to look, like beef jerky and lip balm.