Bulletin : Caffeine: How much is too much?

Caffeine has its perks, but it can pose troubles, too.

It stimulates the brain that results to increased wakefulness, improved concentration and focus.  Studies have shown that people who drink coffee are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and even Parkinson’s disease. It’s an antioxidant, a laxative and reduces the probability of gallstone formation. There is an on-going study that it may even be a potential anti-diabetic agent.

When to consider cutting back

For most healthy adults, moderate doses of caffeine or about two to four cups of brewed coffee a day, aren’t harmful. But some conditions may warrant limiting or even ending caffeine routine. One should consider cutting back if unpleasant effects like insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach upset, fast heartbeat and muscle tremors, are felt.
The effect of caffeine differs from one person to another. Some experience unpleasant effects even with very small amounts. These are often the non-regular coffee drinkers. Others may have medical conditions like irregular heart beat (arrhythmia), overly active thyroids and those with anxiety and sleep disorders that tend to predispose them to be more sensitive to the unpleasant effects of caffeine. Interestingly, research also suggests that men are more susceptible to the effects of caffeine than women
Coffee, especially from signature coffee shops, has become pricey. But the negative implication on health is the main reason why one needs to cut down on coffee intake. It may be a challenging task because some people experience withdrawal symptoms like headache, fatigue, irritability and nervousness.
But to change a caffeine habit, Mayo Clinic suggests tips on how to cut back gradually.

  • Read labels carefully. Be informed about the amount of caffeine you’re getting from food. Sodas and chocolates also contain caffeine.
  • Cut back. But do it gradually. Drink less cans of soda or drink a smaller cup of coffee each day. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages late in the day. This will help the body get used to the lower levels of caffeine and lessen potential withdrawal effects.
  • Go decaf. Most decaffeinated beverages look and taste the same as their caffeinated counterparts.
  • Shorten the brew time or go herbal. When making tea, brew it for less time. This cuts down on its caffeine content. Choose herbal teas that don't have caffeine.
  • Check the bottle. Some over-the-counter pain relievers contain caffeine — as much as 130 mg of caffeine in one dose. Look for caffeine-free pain relievers instead.

Caffeine is a part of most adult’s daily routine. Most of the time, it doesn’t pose a health problem. However be vigilant of situations that necessitate curbing caffeine intake.
For comments, suggestions and questions, email: healthcare@dlsu.edu.ph

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