Caffeine: Good or Bad?

by in Healthy Tips, February 19, 2009

Many people jump start the morning — and afternoon — with a big cup of coffee or even a cold soda. Why? Because they want the energy-boosting caffeine. But how much is too much? Here are some tips to help you assess your daily dose.

What is Caffeine?
Plain and simple, caffeine is a stimulant. Consuming too much can increase heart rate and cause anxiety, stomach upset and excessive urination. And no, contrary to popular belief, caffeine doesn’t help you “sober up” after too many cocktails.

So how much is too much? The amount in 20 fluid ounces or about two and half cups of coffee — that’s about 250 milligrams — is considered moderate or “average.” If you consume more than this on a regular basis, you may want to consider cutting back. Caffeine is mildly addictive; withdrawal symptoms include headaches and fatigue.

Too much caffeine can also stand in the way of calcium absorption and may interfere with some medications. Women that are pregnant or may become pregnant should also keep their intake limited (a cup of coffee or one caffeinated soda a day – tops!).

Not Just in Beverages
Caffeine exists naturally in coffee, tea and cocoa so you should expect to find it in coffee- and chocolate-containing foods. Manufacturers often add it to soft drinks, energy drinks and some gum and candies — as an energy booster or stimulant. Some cold medicines, pain relievers and appetite suppressants have added caffeine as well.

Americans love their caffeine — soda, coffee, chocolate and more. Want to know who is consuming the most caffeine? A study tracked the highest consumers around the country. See if your hometown made the list of “most caffeinated” cities.

Consider the caffeine in foods and beverages; use this chart to check the caffeine content in your diet (even decaf coffee contains some caffeine). Watch out for those energy drinks too; many contain tons of caffeine but it isn’t always mentioned on the label.

The Bottom Line
A cup of coffee or the occasional chocolate treat is safe for most people. These caffeinated foods also contain antioxidants and other healthful nutrients. There is some evidence to support that moderate coffee drinking may reduce your risk of developing dementia and Parkinson’s disease and can enhance mental and physical performance. Don’t use that as a reason to go caffeine crazy — downing multiple caffeine-containing drinks and foods everyday can be dangerous.

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Comments (52)

  1. Tatiana says:

    As a hispanic woman I grew up consuming tons of coffee. I cannot imagine life without my morning cup. But I’ve aged I have found that if I consume caffeine after 5 or 6 in the afternoon, I will have the worst heartburn up until very late at night. I have limit myself to the morning cup only and have been doing great. You can enjoy it, just don’t overdo it.

  2. aimee says:

    6 cups (6oz.each) I Would rather give up food than my coffee. I would however like to cut back on the artificial sweetner I put in it!

  3. carmela says:

    I love my coffee and felt I consumed entirely too may cups on a daily basis. I also know I need to change my habits slowly. I decided to limit my daily comsumption of coffee by switching to herbal tea from noon on. So far, it has worked.

  4. alex says:

    I youst love caffeine!!but i know if you drink tons of coffee is bad for your health but the smell in the morning is just wonderful.

  5. Nick Pec says:

    I love Coffee. My roomate in college would make gallons of it and we would chug it together. Thank You.

  6. jessie says:

    Well, I think if we take no more than 20 oz cup of coffee it should be okay. I read one article that coffee could fight brain cancer, too. However, this article is right. Keep it in the right amount! =)

  7. paula says:

    I switched to decaf the day i found out I was pregnant with my son. That was 14 years ago. After the initial withdrawals from the caffeine you wont know the difference.

  8. Donna says:

    Last December I had a mamogram and my Dr. found a “questionable” cloudy mass. Seems as though I consume too much caffeine and that was the reason for the mass. I have since cut my caffine consumption by more than half. My last mamogram was much clearer, no “questionable masses” here!

  9. Caffine is fine, in moderation. As with all americans we’ve over done it just about everything, even our simple cup of morinig coffee. What ever happened to a splash of milk and a teaspoon of sugar? Now its a venti coffee with a double shot of expresso and a shot of vanilla with soy milk and 8 splenda.

  10. Rita says:

    I used to consume 13-14 medium to large size cups of coffee per day but because it was causing some health issues I started to cut back to 1-4 cups per day & am now down to only 1 caffeinated cup per day & the rest of the day I have 2-3 cups of some flavored decaf herbal teas. It can be done!

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