Caffeine is the most popular and widely consumed drug in the world. It is known for its stimulating effect and many people use it regularly to help them wake up in the morning and to feel more wide awake during the day.
At least half of the world’s population regularly drinks tea, and coffee is not far behind in the popularity stakes. Here are the answers to some questions commonly asked about caffeine.
Where is caffeine found? In coffee, tea, cola soft drinks, cocoa, chocolate and many over the counter drugs such as remedies for the common cold, some painkillers and stimulants.
What effect does caffeine have on the body? Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system which is why it helps to reduce fatigue and drowsiness. It raises blood pressure and increases heart beat. In very sensitive people it can cause the heart beat to become very fast and irregular, though studies have not found any links between caffeine and an increased risk of heart disease or cancer.
It is also a diuretic, which means it causes the kidneys to excrete more urine. It also increases the amount of acid produced in the stomach, so it can cause a problem in people with ulcers. Children are especially likely to be affected by caffeine. Having smaller bodies they will respond to caffeine more so than an adult.
Are any of these side effects harmful? Most people don’t take in enough caffeine for really nasty symptoms to occur. But many people do have problems sleeping, get headaches and become very jittery and irritable because of caffeine.
Can you become addicted to caffeine? Very definitely! Many people are addicted. You can find out if you are hooked on caffeine by giving up all sources of caffeine for a day or two. Withdrawal symptoms usually include headaches, nervousness and the shakes, tiredness and yawning and in ability to concentrate. These symptoms last from four to seven days.
How much caffeine can cause addiction? You are considered to be dependent on caffeine if you have 250 to 300mg or more a day. This is the amount in four cups of instant coffee, three cups of percolated coffee or five to six cups of average-strength tea.
Does caffeine build up in your body? Fortunately not. If you have a cup of tea or coffee, all traces of caffeine will be gone in a matter of hours.
Can too much caffeine kill you? A lethal dose would be about 10,000mg of caffeine or the amount in 100 cups of coffee downed at one sitting. There is little likelihood of this happening.
Are some people more sensitive to caffeine than others? Yes, some people will develop the jitters or a rapid heart beat from just one cup of coffee. Others will develop a tolerance to caffeine and not notice any side effects.
Does caffeine improve your performance? No, it can make you feel more alert and active, but it doesn’t improve your intellectual performance. It also may hide the fact that your body is craving sleep.
Will coffee revive you if you’re drunk? Definitely not! Self-confidence increases after drinking coffee, but the body’s reaction times do not improve. This makes driving very dangerous. The coffee may make you think you’re more alert and sober when in fact you’re just a wide awake drunk!
Do tea and coffee have any calories? They are almost free of calories unless you add milk or sugar.
Are there any substitutes for tea and coffee? Yes, most herbal teas, decaffeinated coffee and coffee substitutes made of dandelion roots or roasted grains are either free or very low in caffeine. And, of course, there’s always water, juice or milk.
Are there any people who shouldn’t have much caffeine? Yes. They are:
- Children, because caffeine affects them more than adults.
- Pregnant women should take caffeine products in moderation because there is not a great deal of knowledge about the effects of caffeine on the developing baby.
- Women who are breastfeeding. Caffeine goes into the milk and too much can affect the baby.
- People with ulcers.
What is the final verdict on caffeine? Coffee, tea or cocoa are beverages which most people enjoy. A daily total of about 300mg of caffeine (spread over a day) seems to be handled well by most adults. Young children are better off without any caffeine, or only the occasional dose.