Are you addicted to caffeine?

  • Published
  • By John Martin
  • 82nd Aerospace Medecine Squadron
Do most people know how much caffeine they are really taking in? 

Caffeine can be a good thing if it's taken into the body in small doses, but the majority of people might be taking in too much. It's a central nervous system stimulant, which means it makes you feel more awake and aware of your surroundings. 

In the past, most people consumed caffeine through coffee or tea. That's not the case these days. 

Caffeine can be found in virtually everything. Dietary supplements, energy drinks, sodas, coffees, tea, pain relievers, over the counter cold medications and pick me up pills you see at the front counter at your local convenience store are examples of ways to get caffeine. 

When can caffeine become harmful and how much is too much? There is not a recommended daily allowance, but the National Institute of Health recommends that 250 milligrams of caffeine is considered average or a moderate amount of caffeine per day. 

Sydney Kay, a medical doctor from the Institute of Legal Medicine at the University of Puerto Rico, said excessive caffeine - 300 mg or higher - could lead to a list of adverse effects; high sustained heart rate, anxiety or depression, restlessness, tremors and sleep deprivation. 

It's also a mild diuretic which could lead to dehydration if there is not adequate water intake before, during and after exercise. 

So if you're taking a dietary supplement to lose weight (280 mg,) drank a couple cups of coffee in the morning (250 mg,) had a 12 ounce soft drink for lunch (40 mg,) had an energy drink mid-afternoon (70 to 75 mg,) and decide to finish off the day with an iced tea (75 mg,) you have had a lot of caffeine in one day. The total caffeine intake for the day is around 720 mg. 

If this is a normal day for you, this is way too much. I recommend beginning to slowly cut back your caffeine level. 

Caffeine can be wonderful if consumed in small amounts, but it can have serious side effects if consumed in large amounts. 

For more information, call Reneé Allison, registered dietitian, at 676-1416, John Martin, exercise physiologist, at 676-3026, or the Health and Wellness Center at 676-4292.