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Caffeine: How Much is Too Much?

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Caffeine: How Much is Too Much?

Can you survive the day without your cup o’ joe in the morning? In our non-stop culture, with little rest and days packed full of back-to-back activity, it's easy to see how we’ve become so reliant on caffeine.

The United States consumes more caffeine annually (about 971 tons) than any other country in the world. The average American consumes two cups of coffee a day (about 200mg of caffeine), and an estimated 10 percent of Americans ingest as much as 1000mg of caffeine daily.

Caffeine is found in many foods and drinks, including coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, sodas, and over-the-counter medications. While it can be harmless when consumed in small amounts, just like anything, there are pros and cons to caffeine.

Preventive Medicine Physician at Cooper Clinic, Riva Rahl, MD, breaks down the pros and cons of caffeine and explains how much caffeine is safe to consume.

Pros of Caffeine
Caffeine is a natural stimulant. It increases alertness and energy and is considered a performance enhancing agent. Some authorities in various sports even suggest that caffeine be banned prior to endurance competitions, limiting the athlete to an unfair advantage in competition, as studies have shown that caffeine enhances endurance by increasing adrenaline production.

Various studies suggest that caffeine may have health benefits including lowering cardiovascular mortality, protecting against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver disease. Caffeine may also improve mental function and decrease risk of depression. It is worth noting, however, that some studies do not take into account the fact that high-risk behaviors such as smoking and inactivity are often related to high caffeine consumption.

Caffeine is also commonly used to treat headaches. Many prescription and over-the-counter medicines, such as Excedrin, Midol, and Bayer Headache Pain Relief, contain caffeine additives, making the medications more effective in treating headaches. Caffeine can help the body absorb headache medications, bringing faster relief.

Cons of Caffeine
Caffeine is addictive and it can be easy to become dependent on caffeine. If you have tried to eliminate coffee or sodas from your diet, you’ve likely experienced the affects of caffeine’s addictive characteristics.

Drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evening can make it difficult to fall asleep, but caffeine can also disrupt your sleep patterns, causing restless sleep which results in daytime fatigue. 

Caffeine increases blood sugar levels and can raise blood pressure. People who have high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes may find switching to decaf coffee helps to control blood sugar and blood pressure.

Another downside, caffeine can cause bone loss in postmenopausal women who drink more than 300 mg of caffeine a day but do not get enough calcium in their diets. Older women should get at least 800mg of calcium daily to help prevent caffeine from causing bone loss.

Caffeine can cause other uncomfortable symptoms such as stomach problems, acid reflux, heartburn, and heart palpitations.

For both men and women, too much caffeine can cause urine incontinence.

How much caffeine is safe to consume daily?
Dr. Rahl recommends keeping your daily caffeine consumption under 200 mg, which is about two cups of coffee. As a general rule of thumb, one soda contains about 40 mg of caffeine, while one six-ounce cup of coffee contains 100 mg.

If you are pregnant, you should be more mindful of your caffeine consumption. Caffeine crosses the placenta to the baby. Your baby is unable to fully metabolize caffeine, so any caffeine you drink may cause changes in a baby’s sleep or movement patterns. Studies on animals have shown that caffeine can cause birth defects, premature labor, preterm delivery, reduced fertility, increase risk of low birth weight, and even increase risk of miscarriage. 

The risks of consuming caffeine while pregnant can be frightening, however experts agree that moderate caffeine consumption has no effect on a pregnancy. Dr. Rahl suggests consuming no more than 100 mg of caffeine daily if you are pregnant.

Every person is different, and some bodies tolerate caffeine betterthan others. If you suspect that caffeine upsets your stomach, or causes reflux or heartburn, try switching to decaf coffee to see if your symptoms are alleviated.

Tracking your caffeine consumption can be tricky when it is found in more than just coffee and sodas. Keep in mind that even if you switch to decaf coffee, you may still be consuming caffeine in other forms such as medications, chocolate, or even coffee flavored ice cream.

Ultimately, “if caffeine is your only vice, you’re doing ok,” said Dr. Rahl.

For information about services at Cooper Clinic, call 866.906.2667 (COOP) or click here.

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.