All About Caffeine
Is caffeine bad for you? Does it cause cancer, heart disease, or osteoporosis?
For most healthy individuals, moderate caffeine consumption poses no health risk. No proof exists to prove a significant relationship between caffeine and the risk of cancer. In fact, green tea may reduce the risk of stomach cancer, and tea consumption is linked to a lowered risk of heart disease. Coffee may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, but drinking any very hot beverage on a regular basis may increase the risk of esophageal cancer.
The association between caffeine and pancreatic cancer was widely publicized, but no confirmation of this potential risk is available. Heavy drinkers of caffeinated beverages may have a minor increase in total cholesterol, which is particularly true if the chosen method of coffee preparation is the European-boiled method vs the American-filtered method. Most large studies show no correlation between caffeine consumption and increased risk of heart disease incidence or mortality. However, people with high blood pressure or certain heart valve diseases should limit their caffeine intake.
Some studies suggest that excessive caffeine intake could reduce bone mineral density, but a relationship between moderate caffeine intake and osteoporosis does not exist.
Some people who have reactions to methylxanthine compounds must avoid all caffeinated foods. Caffeine use will lead to headaches, heart palpitations, panic and anxiety attacks, and vomiting in people with this nonallergic food reaction.
What minor drawbacks, if any, come from consuming caffeinated foods and beverages?
Caffeine makes some people feel jumpy and overenergized. It also increases the pain of fibrocystic breast disease in women. People with ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome should avoid caffeine, because it is likely to lead to an exacerbation of symptoms. A link between coffee and lower bone density may exist, so make sure to drink and eat plenty of calcium-rich foods and beverages to make up for this, or make your next cup a latte.
What is caffeine good for?
Caffeine increases alertness in most people. It also can help end asthma attacks by relaxing the constricted bronchial muscles. Caffeine is found in many painkillers because it leads to dilation of blood vessels, making it particularly useful in headache relief. However, buyer beware—a rebound effect from caffeine is the withdrawal once the medication wears off. Coffee also is shown to reduce the chances of forming gallstones.
Will caffeine hurt the baby if you are pregnant or lactating?
It may. An increase in miscarriage during the 1st trimester is linked to caffeine consumption. No specific recommendations for consumption during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters exist, but it seems reasonable to limit intake.
Caffeine is excreted in the breast milk and can lead to irritability and wakefulness of the baby. In addition, if a mother drinks more than one or two cups of coffee a day while breastfeeding, it may interfere with the bioavailability of iron in breast milk.
How much caffeine are you consuming?
- Drip coffee, 6 fluid ounces (fl oz)=133 milligrams (mg)
- Mountain Dew®, 12 fl oz=54 mg
- Brewed tea, 8 fl oz =53 mg
- Regular cola, 12 fl oz=35–50 mg
- Espresso, 1 fl oz=40 mg
- Solid chocolate, 1.5 oz=9 mg
- Hot chocolate, 8 fl oz=9 mg
- Decaffeinated coffee, 8 fl oz=5 mg
- Energy drink, 8 fl oz: 80–300 mg
What should you do if you think that you have too much caffeine in your diet?
What you do not want to do is try to quit cold turkey. Caffeine is addictive. If you suddenly try to cut it out completely, you are likely to have withdrawal symptoms. Headaches and irritability are two of the most commonly cited side effects of caffeine withdrawal. It is much wiser to slowly wean yourself from fully caffeinated beverages by mixing them with decaffeinated varieties.
References and recommended readings
Center for Science in the Public Interest. Caffeine content of food & drugs.
Available at: http://www.cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm.
Accessed May 5, 2011.
Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S, Raymond JL. Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process. 13th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2012.
MedlinePlus. Caffeine in the diet.
Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002445.htm.
Accessed May 25, 2011.
Mayo Clinic. Caffeine: how much is too much?
Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/caffeine/NU00600.
Accessed May 25, 2011.
Review Date 10/11