The Buzz On Caffeine
How To Determine Caffeine Tolerance
Excessive caffeine consumption is not mathematical, it is individual. Caffeine sensitivity depends on the amount and frequency of consumption, body weight, physical condition and overall anxiety level among other factors. For most healthy adults moderate amounts (100-200 milligrams (mg) a day, about 1-2 cups of coffee) pose no physical problems.
However, if you want to reduce your consumption, decrease gradually over 1-2 weeks. Here are some tips:
- Mix half regular with decaffeinated coffee or tea
- Drink decaffeinated coffee or tea, herbal tea
- Steep tea for a shorter time, a one-minute steep contains just half of a three-minute brew
- Keep a cup of water alongside your caffeinated beverage and alternate sips to prevent mindless drinking
- Check the label of your favorite soft drink to see if it contains caffeine and how much per serving (do the math) and choose caffeine free more often
- Also check the label of your over-the-counter medications, as some can contain as much as one or two cups of coffee in just one dose.
There are some brands of root beer that are caffeine free, most lemon-lime sodas like Sprite and 7up. Find a substitute beverage like water, sugar-free lemonade or fruit drink, or drink a glass of milk (your bones will love it).
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot become addicted to caffeine, BUT you can develop a habit that may exhibit short-term symptoms if you stop consuming suddenly. This substance is a stimulant that increases anxiety, can cause trouble sleeping (getting to sleep, reduces sleep time and decreases the quality of sleep), can cause heartburn and an upset stomach and since it is a mild diuretic, it can cause you to urinate more often.
Caffeine Content (in mg):
Drip-brewed coffee, 5 oz. 110-150 mg
Tea, 6 oz. (5-minute brew) 20-50 mg
Iced tea, 12 oz. 22-36 mg
Mountain Dew, 20 oz. 92 mg
Red Bull, 16 oz. 160 mg
Powershot, 1-2 fluid oz. bottle 100-125 mg
Barq’s Root Beer, 20 oz. 33 mg
Milk or dark chocolate, 1 oz. 1-35 mg
Monster Energy Drink, 16 oz. 160mg
Coca-cola, 12 oz. 54 mg
Diet Coke, 12 oz. 45 mg
Jolt gum, 1 stick 33 mg
Excedrin extra strength, 2 tabs 130 mg
Hot chocolate, 5 oz. 2-15 mg
Chocolate milk, 8 oz. 8 mg
Chocolate pudding & ice cream, 1 cup 2-7 mg
Best bet, read the label. Make sure you figure the amount of caffeine in the portion you consume, often listed per serving with multiple servings per container. Check the websites for your favorite coffee shops, you might be surprised to learn how many calories some choices have, as well as the caffeine content.
Osteoporosis and Caffeine
Does caffeine increase risk for conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer? At high levels (more than 744 mg per day), caffeine may increase calcium and magnesium loss in urine. But, studies suggest it does not increase the risk for bone loss, especially if you get enough calcium. You can offset the calcium loss from drinking 1 cup of coffee by adding just 2 T. milk. Older adults may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine on calcium metabolism. If you are an older woman, discuss with your doctor if you should limit your daily consumption.
Cardiovascular Disease and Caffeine
A slight, temporary rise in heart rate and blood pressure is common in those who are sensitive to caffeine. But several large studies do not link caffeine to higher cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, or an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If you already have high blood pressure, have a discussion with your doctor about your daily intake. You may be more sensitive to its effects. Also, more research is needed to tell whether this increases the risk of stroke in people with high blood pressure.
Cancer and Caffeine
Reviews of 13 studies involving 20,000 people revealed no relationship between cancer and caffeine. In fact, caffeine may even have a protective effect against certain cancers.
How Safe is Caffeine During Pregnancy and use by Children?
Many studies show no links between low amounts of caffeine (1c. coffee/day) and any of the following: trouble conceiving, miscarriage, birth defects, premature death or low birth rate. The March of Dimes suggests fewer than 200 mg of caffeine/day for pregnant women.
As of 2004, children ages 6-9 consumed about 22 mg of caffeine/day. However, energy drinks have become increasingly popular. Studies suggest that up to 300 mg per day is safe for kids, BUT is it wise? Many kids are sensitivities, developing temporary anxiety or irritability, with a ‘crash’ afterward. Also, most amounts that kids consume is in sodas, energy drinks or sweetened tea, all of which have high sugar content. These empty calories put kids at higher risk for obesity. Even if itself isn’t harmful, caffeinated drinks are generally not good for kids.
Can Caffeine Sober you up?
No, research suggests that people only think caffeinated drinks help them sober up. The truth is, reaction time and judgment are impaired. So drinking a bunch of coffee to ‘sober up’ and getting behind the wheel is not a good idea.
Does Caffeine have any Health Benefits?
Caffeine does have a few proven health benefits. Any regular coffee drinker will tell you that caffeine improves alertness, concentration, energy, clear-headedness and feelings of sociability. You might even be the type who needs that first cup of Joe each morning before you say a single word. Scientific studies support these subjective findings. One French study even showed a slower decline in cognitive ability among women who consumed high amounts. Other possible benefits include improved immune function from caffeine’s anti-inflammatory effects and help with allergic reactions due to caffeine’s ability to reduce concentrations of histamines. Some people’s asthma also appears to have benefits. These research findings are interesting, but still, need to be proven. Limited evidence suggests caffeine may also reduce the risk of the following, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, colorectal cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and dementia. Despite its potential benefits, don’t forget that high levels of caffeine may have adverse effects. More studies are needed to confirm both its benefits and potential risks.
So everything in moderation, stay active and eat a balanced diet to help you feel your best.
Original post date: October, 2014. Revised February, 2019.
These blogs are written by members of the CHI Health Nutrition Services team.