Caffeine and Your Health
 
 

 

Caffeine is the most commonly used psychoactive substance worldwide with approximately 80% of the population consuming it on a daily basis.


How much is too much? Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound found in many leaves, seeds, and fruits worldwide. Common dietary sources of in the U.S. include coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, and chocolate. A low to moderate intake is considered 130 to 300 mg of caffeine per day and is generally considered safe. At these levels the most notable effects include increased alertness, energy, and ability to concentrate. Heavy caffeine consumption corresponds to more than 600 mg per day and can have negative effects on your health such as anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and fast heart beat. It is estimated that the average American consumes about 280 mg/day, while 20% to 30% are heavy consumers.


How much caffeine are you ingesting? Did you know that an average 8 ounce cup of instant coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine while a tall (12 ounce) coffee from Starbucks contains about 260 mg of caffeine? A 12 ounce can of soda contains anywhere from 30 to 55 mg of caffeine depending on the brand and most energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster have around 80 mg of caffeine per 8 ounces.


Recent research has shown no relationship between caffeine ingestion and heart disease, and studies done on the role of caffeine on weight loss are inconclusive. Studies have shown that coffee and tea were not associated with increases in blood pressure or arrhythmias, while soft drinks were. Regarding caffeine intake during pregnancy, no relationship between caffeine consumption up to 300 mg/day and adverse pregnancy outcomes has been found. There is no evidence that caffeine has any harmful effect on bone mass or fracture risk in individuals who ingest the currently recommended daily allowances of calcium.


Caffeine withdrawal symptoms are usually not related to the amount of caffeine ingested daily and typically include headaches, fatigue, weakness, drowsiness, impaired concentration, work difficulty, depression, anxiety, irritability, increased muscle tension, and occasionally, tremor, nausea, and vomiting. Withdrawal symptoms generally begin 12-24 hours after sudden cessation of caffeine consumption and reach a peak after 20-48 hours. In some individuals, however, these symptoms can appear within only 3-6 hours and can last for one week making cutting back very difficult.


What does it all mean? Caffeine consumption in moderation is shown to be safe. Be aware of the caffeine content of foods and drinks you commonly consume and try to keep your caffeine intake below 300 mg per day to avoid negative effects.