Does Caffeine Endanger Your Health?

Posted by on in Personal Wellness

From coffee shops to supermarket shelves and vending machines, caffeinated drinks are everywhere.

For millions of people, a cup of coffee is the first nourishment they receive each day. Drinking coffee can make a person feel more alert or better able to concentrate, and athletes often look to caffeine to give them a burst of energy and perhaps even a competitive edge.

"This is the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world," says Dr. Kathleen Miller, Research Assistant Professor of Sociology for the Research Institute on Addictions at the University of Buffalo. "What is happening is the same basic processes as stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines, it's just milder."

According to a report by Brown University, caffeine is consumed by up to 90 percent of the world's population, mainly through drinks. Advertisers have tapped into America's long-running love affair with caffeine, and commercials for energy drinks show people performing daring feats of agility. They climb mountains, do back flips, and skydive.

But is caffeine safe? And how much is too much?

Is caffeine safe?

Research by Brown University says that while caffeine is mildly addictive, it has not been shown to have a direct link to serious health risks. According to the American Heart Association, while many studies have been undertaken to see if there's a direct link between caffeine, coffee drinking, and coronary heart disease, the results are conflicting.

An article published on WebMD in 2011 explains that a growing body of research has shown that coffee drinkers, as compared to nondrinkers, are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, dementia, or Parkinson's disease. They also have fewer cases of certain cancers, fewer heart rhythm problems, and fewer strokes.

does caffeine endanger your health

Despite this praise, many medical professionals continue to warn against the overuse of caffeine, which can lead to such symptoms as insomnia, rapid heartbeat, and muscle tremors.

Learn more about the benefits of coffee here!

How much is too much?

The Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical practice and research group, says that up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That's roughly equivalent to the amount of caffeine contained in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola, or two energy-shot beverages.

Although caffeine is safe for most grownups, it has not proven safe for preadolescent children, the Mayo Clinic holds. For adolescents, it recommends no more than 100 milligrams of caffeine each day.

Furthermore, the American Pregnancy Association advises pregnant women to avoid caffeine as much as possible to protect their unborn children.

How to cut back on caffeine

For most people, quitting caffeine isn't something they can do overnight. "It is a mildly addictive drug," explains Dr. Barry Sears, a research biochemist in Boston. He says "that tired feeling you get when it's time for another cup of coffee likely is a sign of improper nutrition." Therefore, if you eat properly, you won't need to rely on caffeine to keep you alert.

If you're having trouble sleeping or you don't like the way caffeine makes you feel, here are some tips for quitting or cutting back:

  • Don't abruptly stop taking caffeine. Miller says that completely stopping your intake can lead to headaches, irritability, and fatigue.

  • Try drinking fewer caffeinated drinks each day. For example, if you have coffee three times each day, try skipping your second drink.

  • Brown University recommends switching to decaffeinated beverages, or to a mixture of decaffeinated and regular coffee as a way to taper off.

  • Know what you're drinking. Get in the habit of reading the labels. Not all caffeinated drinks are labeled, but many of them are, Miller explains.

  • Remove yourself from temptation. If you keep the refrigerator stocked with your favorite energy drink, it's easy to forget your plans to stop.

Addicted to soda? Find out why it's so bad for your health- and how you can kick your habit for good!

All things in moderation

For many people, getting through the day without their morning cup of coffee or energy drink is hard to imagine. The good news is that for most people caffeine is considered safe when taken in moderation.

does caffeine endanger your health

"We know that caffeine in moderate doses generally is not that bad for you," Miller says. "Caffeine in high doses will cause caffeine intoxication: anxiety, jitters, a racing pulse, elevated blood pressure."

It's best to listen to the experts. If your doctor says you have a medical condition that is aggravated by caffeine, find a way to reduce your intake or stop your caffeine use right away.


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