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. Dr. UP says:

    Gross Excess of caffeine can/will cause adrenal burn out. I was a river outfitter/guide and always had to be on for customers as well as many hours of demanding labor in the hot sun. I used to drink four or 8oz. cups of coffee a day (300+ ml) for many years and then switched to energy drinks with even more caf-feind. When in my mid forties and feeling major fatigue and lack of mental focus, I tested for cortisol (indication of proper adrenal levels) and epinephrine/nor-epinephrine. I currently take expensive supplements ($150/mo) to help my body heal itself. My levels are returning to normal after 3 years of good diet, exercise and supplementation. Coffee also creates an overall significant acid effect in the body (evidenced by heartburn/acid reflex). Cancer can only grow in an acid environment. Coffee companies got ya right where they want us. Your down side out weighs any anti-oxidant benefit and you are going to pay for the all the boosts you get with severe physical and mental fatigue given over consumption. – Dr. UPs

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  7. Kaha says:

    Caffeine does not occur in (pure) chocolate naturally. It must be added in one form or another. Check your facts… easy to find (any site that describe natural or chocolate growers in south america or Hawai.

  8. This could be two times at the moment i’ve gotten on your personal web site more than the last 72 hours looking

  9. lisa_k says:

    I personally have no problem with caffeine, and find it very helpful. I'm an energy shot user, so I like to take a quick "shot" of energy to get my day going and then I'm all set. I like to use a product called Eternal energy shot, you can get it super inexpensive at walmart, the main brand is just too expensive (you know how I'm talking about if you watch tv at all.)

  10. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is wonderful, as well as the content!. Thanks For Your article about Caffeine: Good or Bad? | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy Living Blog .

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