Caffeine is the world?s most widely consumed drug, according to webmd.com. It increases alertness and speeds up reaction time, but it also speeds up heart rate and increases blood pressure and anxiety, according to webmd.com. The power of caffeine has become so well recognized by the American Psychiatric Association that the organization has added three related disorders to the list of official diagnoses associated with caffeine: caffeine intoxication, caffeine-related anxiety, and caffeine-related sleep disorders.Many people think of caffeine as a stress reliever, but a new study suggests the opposite is true. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that caffeine actually exaggerates stress and its effect lasts throughout the day.
Caffeine is consumed daily by an estimated 85 percent of adults in the U.S. in the form of coffee, tea, and sodas, says webmd.com. From my own experiences, I know that caffeine is bad.
However, from the number of people I see with caffeine in their hands – or filling up at the soda fountain — is astounding. And chances are that?s not their only caffeine intake for the day.
According to Pat Kendall, a Colorado State University Human Nutrition specialist, “More than half the adults in the U.S. drink coffee every day, averaging more than three 9-ounce mugs per day.
Soft drink consumption also is high, some 18 ounces per person per day in the U.S. Add to this tea, chocolate and over-the-counter drugs containing caffeine, and it?s no wonder we sometimes worry about the amount of caffeine we?re ingesting.”
The problems for me began in high school. It all started when I had heart palpitations in gym class or even in band and ended up passing out twice.
My parents were really afraid that something was wrong with my heart. After EKG?s, an echo cardiogram, and having a heart monitor for a while, it was determined that I was – gasp – dehydrated!
I probably had three things to drink a day, which may have totaled 48 ounces, more than half of which was probably something with caffeine. After knowing what I do now, no wonder I was having problems. Even today, I find it really difficult to keep my volume levels up. Unfortunately, I doubt that the average student is doing a much better job. Between needing to stay up to cram for an exam, to “needing” that cup of morning joe, many students are addicted to caffeine but don?t know it.
Another concern with regards to caffeine consumption that many are unaware of is its effect on bone health. “Because caffeine increases urine production, calcium, which is a component of the fluid, is lost. Calcium plays a critical role in maintaining bone density and in preventing the development of osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones weaken and become susceptible to fractures,” says Kendall. However, there is evidence that adequate dietary calcium intake can counteract the negative effects of high caffeine consumption.
There?s something else I didn?t know. The levels of caffeine in each cup of coffee – the same size, from the same coffee shop but on a different day – are not always the same. According to webmd.
com, “Researchers found that the caffeine content of a medium cup of Starbucks Breakfast Blend coffee purchased from the same shop had caffeine levels ranging from 259 milligrams to 564 milligrams.
Overall, the study showed that ?the caffeine content of specialty coffee beverages varies widely from day to day as well as from coffee shop to coffee shop.?”
It is prescribed that caffeine intake be limited to 200-300 milligrams per day. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms can be minimized if intake is cut back gradually.
After finding out that I was dehydrated and binging on water, forcing myself to drink the prescribed amount per day, I found that I was less tired, more energized, and had far fewer headaches.
I have had my run-in with the evils of caffeine, and have learned my lesson. It is still not easy to maintain this goal…it?s difficult to force myself to drink vast amounts of liquid. But when I do, I feel so much better. Hopefully, next time you go to the soda fountain, go for the lemonade, or at least a noncaffeinated soda. Better yet, get a bottle of water. Get two. And drink them, NOW!