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How Your Caffeine Addiction Affects Your Health

  • Category: LiveSmart
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  • Written By: Baldwin

Woman drinking coffee

Here's what the caffeine in your daily cup or two (or three!) of coffee or tea is doing to your body.

Your morning cup o' Joe may be something you can't imagine starting your day without. Maybe you can't live without an afternoon pick-me-up that's fully caffeinated. If you make caffeinated drinks part of your everyday routine, you may be wondering if all that caffeine is good or bad, or whether it has much impact on your health at all.

Research shows that low to moderate amounts of caffeine may offer health benefits. A moderate level is considered to be less than 400 mg, which is the amount found in about four to five cups of coffee. Some studies indicate that regular consumption of caffeinated coffee may be associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, endometrial cancer, gallstones, liver cancer and gallbladder cancer.

Caffeine may also increase energy, alertness and the ability to concentrate and remember things. Since caffeine boosts the flow of dopamine, a feel-food brain chemical, it may make you feel happier and may even lower your risk of depression.

But higher doses of caffeine may have negative effects on health. If you consume too much caffeine, it may speed up your heart rate. There is no solid evidence that this will cause an increase in blood pressure or cause arrhythmias, irregular heart rhythms. However, many cardiologists recommend that patients with these conditions limit or avoid caffeine.

Pregnant women should also consider limiting or eliminating caffeine from their diet since caffeine passes through the placenta into the fetus. You may not need to give up all caffeine if you're pregnant, but most obstetricians recommend limiting intake to under 200 mg per day.

Caffeinated drinks may cause some people to have heartburn or it may increase symptoms of acid reflux. It may also contribute to dehydration since caffeine is considered a diuretic. So if your daily fluid intake is caffeinated, you're likely not doing much to hydrate your body.

Although research suggests that a moderate intake of caffeine may be safe for most people, some people cannot tolerate that much caffeine. Drinking more caffeine than can be tolerated may cause symptoms such as agitation, anxiety, restlessness, jitteriness, shakiness or dizziness. You may get headaches, your heart may feel like it's racing or you may have trouble sleeping.

Not sure what 400 mg of caffeine equates to depending on what you drink? Here's a list of some popular beverages and approximately how much caffeine they contain:

  • Brewed coffee (8 oz) – 96 mg
  • Espresso (1 oz) – 64 mg
  • Black tea (8 oz) – 47 mg
  • Green tea (8 oz) – 28 mg
  • Cola-flavored soda (8 oz) – 22 mg
  • Energy drink (8 oz) – 72 mg

The choice to drink caffeinated beverages or stick to decaf is a personal choice. If you have health conditions, talk to your doctor about whether caffeine is something you should limit or avoid. Otherwise, only you can decide where the tipping point is between just the right amount of caffeine to get you going and a bit too much.

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Date Last Reviewed: January 18, 2024

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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