When Should I Worry About...

Caffeine Lowdown: 5 Eye-Opening Truths

Dec. 2, 2019

When many of us wake up in the morning, we think of one thing: caffeine.

After dragging your body out of bed, you stumble to the coffeemaker, get the teakettle going or grab a can of soda out of the fridge. Your morning dose of caffeine provides the boost that gets you going. It wakes you up, gives you energy and increases your morning productivity.

If caffeine is part of your everyday routine, you might want to consider how much you really know about it. We're here to set the record straight on some common beliefs about caffeine, and separate fact from fiction.

Caffeine belief #1: Caffeine is a drug

Fact: Nathalie Sessions, a corporate wellness dietitian with Houston Methodist Wellness Services, points out that caffeine is a nervous system stimulant and is, therefore, a drug. Which explains why some caffeine drinkers report difficulty in reducing or stopping caffeine.

Caffeine is addictive, and withdrawal can cause symptoms such as:

Caffeine belief #2: Energy drinks aren’t that bad

Fiction: Energy drinks are just sugar-sweetened beverages that usually have no more caffeine than coffee and may contain other ingredients that are potentially harmful or dangerous. Energy drinks can contain too much caffeine, which can cause:

(Related: How Caffeinated Is Your Drink?)

Caffeine belief #3: It’s okay to have two cups of coffee per day

Fact: Americans drink more than 400 million cups of coffee every day — making it the country’s most popular caffeinated drink. Consuming up to 400 mg of caffeine, or four cups of coffee per day, is typically okay for most adults.

A cup of coffee brewed at home can contain 50 mg of caffeine, but a 16-ounce coffee at a coffee shop can contain more than 300 mg. As the American Heart Association notes, drinking regular, black coffee in safe amounts can lead to significant health benefits, such as a decreased risk of:

  • Dementia
  • Heart disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

Sessions recommends avoiding drinks with too much caffeine and the consumption of empty calories with your coffee — such as coffee drinks with added sugar or syrups, artificial sweeteners and imitation creamers.

Caffeine belief #4: A child’s caffeine intake should be limited

Fact: Caffeine is safe for adults, but it’s not a good idea for children. Parents should limit the amount of caffeine their children or teens consume. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 12 to 18 should not exceed 100 mg of caffeine a day, which is the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee.
Since the FDA doesn’t require manufacturers to list caffeine content on nutrition labels, it’s often hard to tell whether food or drinks contain the stimulant and how much.
Some examples of everyday items your child or teen could consume that contain caffeine include:
  • Chocolate
  • Gum
  • Jelly beans
  • Oatmeal

Caffeine belief #5: Coffee can sober you up

Fiction: Caffeine is known to make people more alert, which presumably led to the idea, but it's not the hangover cure we all want it to be. And it can't remove the cognitive deficits that alcohol causes. Sessions said clearing alcohol from your system is what’s needed — with proper hydration from water.

A moderate amount of caffeine is safe for most people who follow a healthy lifestyle, but be mindful of the amount of caffeine you have daily.

Categories: When Should I Worry About...
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