Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much? ; EVANSVILLE'S DR. BETSY

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much? ; EVANSVILLE'S DR. BETSY

Article excerpt

My mother passed away nine years ago this week. Her funeral visitation was on Mother's Day, which seems appropriate on many levels. My happiest memories of Mom involve sitting with her at the kitchen table while she read the newspaper and had yet another cup of coffee.

As a second-generation Swedish immigrant, she took her coffee seriously (Sweden has the second highest coffee consumption per capita in the world), and I think she was always a little disappointed that I never developed much of an affinity for the bitter taste of Java. Oh, I have clearly inherited an addiction to caffeine; I've just chosen Diet Mountain Dew instead. While caffeine used to be limited to a few products, a new trend of adding caffeine to a variety of different foods and drinks, many aimed at young people, is causing government agencies and parents to sit up and take notice. Just how safe is caffeine for children?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring component in coffee, tea and chocolate, and it can also be synthesized and added to a variety of other products such as sodas and energy drinks. Caffeine is a metabolic and central nervous system stimulant. In moderate amounts, it affects neurotransmitters in the brain to increase alertness, reduce drowsiness and fatigue, and improve mood, concentration, and focus. Because of genetic differences, some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others.

Like everything else in life, too much caffeine can be bad for you. Common side effects of caffeine overdose include jitteryness, nervousness, anxiety, sleep disturbance, nausea, headaches, dehydration, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, palpitations, and in rare cases, even cardiac arrest.

Because people metabolize caffeine at different rates, there is not a "one size fits all" safe daily recommended amount. Studies suggest that most healthy adults can handle moderate amounts, up to 400 mg daily, while a heavier intake, over 500 mg or so, can result in more significant side effects. (For a little perspective, a 5 oz cup of regular coffee has about 115 mg of caffeine, a 12 oz cola has about 34 to 45 mg, and 12 ounces of Diet Mountain Dew has about 55 mg. …

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