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Caffeine Confusion and Your Health

Studies show the risks — and possible benefits — of caffeine consumption.

By George Vernadakis

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For many Americans, caffeine is a routine part of our daily lives. Whether it’s that first cup of Joe that kicks off the morning, an energy drink to power up your afternoon or a dessert substitute at the end of a meal like a cappuccino or latte, caffeine is a regular part of many people’s diet regimens. The reality is that most people don’t even think about how much caffeine they are consuming. But you should, even if your long-term health risks are relatively low.

Moderate daily doses of caffeine — between 200 and 300 milligrams, or two to four drinks — are typically considered safe. But how much caffeine you’re getting depends on what you’re drinking. Just one 16-ounce Starbucks Grande can pack as much as 400 milligrams of caffeine. Unless it’s decaffeinated, even that 6-ounce cup of green tea could be serving up 40 milligrams.

Most people are aware of some of the side effects of too much caffeine: feeling jittery, an upset stomach or heartburn and difficulty getting to sleep. As a stimulant, it can raise your heart rate and blood pressure; and as a diuretic, it can leave you dehydrated.

How caffeine affects an individual and how much of a risk it poses varies according to a number of factors. A person’s reaction may differ according to age or if they are on medication. Studies have also shown that men tend to be more susceptible than women.

Of particular concern is the danger caffeine consumption may pose during pregnancy. Past studies suggested a possible link to increased risk of miscarriage, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said that less than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day “doesn't appear to have any major impact in causing miscarriage or preterm birth.”

Still, pregnant women need to be mindful of their caffeine intake. A recent study out of Norway suggests a direct connection between maternal caffeine consumption and decreased birth weight. The study also suggests that drinking coffee specifically could affect the length of pregnancy.

We may not be at a point where the definition of “moderate” caffeine intake needs to be reassessed. And there is still a lot of controversy surrounding some of the possible benefits of caffeine — for instance, studies have suggested that it could lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, at the same time that it may also interfere with the effectiveness of diabetes patients’ medication. Then there's a recent Australian study in which truck drivers who typically consumed caffeine were far less likely than other drivers to be involved in traffic accidents.

One thing, however, is clear: Everyone should be caffeine-conscious, to the extent that you know how much you are actually consuming. That’s especially true if you are pregnant.

Remember that it’s not just coffee and tea, but chocolate, soft drinks and even common medications like over-the-counter pain relievers that could be contributing to your daily intake.

Be especially careful with caffeinated energy drinks. According to a report out earlier this year from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the number of energy-drink related visits to U.S. emergency room has doubled over the past four years.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recommends that doctors talk to their patients about energy drinks, and that the Food and Drug Administration require that these drinks include caffeine labels.

In fact, since the FDA launched an investigation into possible links between Monster energy drinks and five deaths, the company is complying with the FDA's request to list caffeine content on its labels.

Talk to your physician if you have any caffeine concerns. Regardless of the source of your caffeine intake, moderation and awareness are key.

Video: Cutting Through the Confusion: Coffee, Tea and Caffeine: Webinar 05/08/18

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Date: 12.12.2018, 19:36 / Views: 51163