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Health Risks of Caffeine and How to Minimize These Factors?

This post is about risk factors we are exposed to regular use of caffeine. Is it only associated with only intake of coffee? And how much use of caffeine is out of risk factors? How to minimize these risk factors? Caffeine in its natural and added forms is found in a growing list of products including coffee, tea, cola beverages, new "energy" drinks, chocolate and even some medicines. Caffeine is found in the leaves, seeds, or fruit of over sixty plants around the world. Caffeine exists in the coffee bean in Arabia, the tea leaf in China, the kola nut in West Africa, and the cocoa bean in Mexico. Because of its use throughout all societies, caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world. It is also manufactured and used as a food additive in some carbonated drinks, and as an ingredient in certain drug products, such as cold and headache remedies.

This post is about risk factors we are exposed to regular use of caffeine. Is it only associated with only intake of coffee? And how much use of caffeine is out of risk factors? How to minimize these risk factors?

Caffeine in its natural and added forms is found in a growing list of products including coffee, tea, cola beverages, new "energy" drinks, chocolate and even some medicines. Caffeine is found in the leaves, seeds, or fruit of over sixty plants around the world.

Because of its use throughout all societies, caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world. It is also manufactured and used as a food additive in some carbonated drinks, and as an ingredient in certain drug products, such as cold and headache remedies.

Caffeine is best known for its stimulant, or "wake-up," effect. Once a person consumes caffeine, it is readily absorbed by the body and carried around in the bloodstream, where its level peaks about one hour after consumption. Caffeine mildly stimulates the nervous and cardiovascular systems. It affects the brain and results in elevated mood, decreased fatigue , and increased attentiveness, so a person can think more clearly and work harder. It also increases the heart rate, blood flow, respiratory rate, and metabolic rate for several hours. When taken before bedtime, caffeine can interfere with getting to sleep or staying asleep.

Exactly how caffeine will affect an individual, and for how long, depends on many factors, including the amount of caffeine ingested, whether one is male or female, one's height and weight, one's age, and whether one is pregnant or smokes. Caffeine is converted by the liver into substances that are excreted in the urine.

Caffeine belongs to a group of stimulants called xanthines. After drinking a caffeinated beverage, the trademark pep many people seek reaches its highest point within thirty to sixty minutes; that boost may keep you going for four to six hours. Caffeine is mildly addictive, as you already know.

The signs of withdrawal from caffeine:                                                           

  1. sleepiness
  2. feeling overtired (from not having had any caffeine to energize you)
  3. a terrible headache (when you abruptly stop having caffeine regularly)

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, four out of five Americans have some caffeine on any given day, the average amount being about 200 milligrams a day (approximately equivalent to what's found in two eight ounce cups of coffee, three to four 12-ounce cans of caffeinated soda, or four eight ounce cups of tea). Since one 12-ounce serving of a diet cola beverage has about 45 milligrams of caffeine,

It depends on the person — often times, you'll know when you've had more than enough if it makes you feel:

  • anxious
  • excitable
  • restless
  • dizzy
  • irritable
  • unable to concentrate
  • gastrointestinal (GI) aches
  • headaches that don't seem to go away
  • trouble with sleeping

These are among the most common of caffeine's effects on our bodies when taken in high doses (i.e., more than eight 8-ounce cups of coffee a day), but they can certainly occur from lesser amounts as well. Many are the result of caffeine's stimulant effect.

As for caffeine's impact on health and disease, these relationships have been less clear. Researchers have studied whether different amounts of caffeine can affect one's risk for a number of health conditions.

Numerous studies have examined the effects of caffeine intake on fertility and pregnancy. Most studies found that moderate caffeine intake does not affect fertility or increase the chance of having a miscarriage or a baby with birth defects; some studies did find a relationship between caffeine intake and fertility or miscarriages. However, most of those studies were judged to be inadequate because they did not consider other lifestyle factors that could contribute to infertility or miscarriages.

And now there is new evidence that is believed by its researchers to prove conclusively that caffeine does induce miscarriages. The study (January 2008) found that pregnant women who consumed more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day, equivalent to about two cups of coffee, had twice the risk of miscarriage as the women who consumed no caffeine at all. The findings were published in the January 21, 2008 Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The Kaiser study looked at 1,063 women in the early stage of pregnancy. The miscarriage rate was 12.5 percent among women who consumed no caffeine; but 25.5 percent in women who consumed more than 200 mg of caffeine a day. There was a small but not statistically significant increased risk for women who consumed fewer than 200 mg of caffeine a day. Researchers say it made no difference whether the caffeine came from coffee, soda, tea or hot chocolate.

Caffeine is considered dangerous during pregnancy because it can cross through the placenta to the fetus and can be difficult for the fetus to metabolize the caffeine. Caffeine may also influence cell development and decrease the blood flow to the placenta. The vasoconstriction may restrict blood flow which can cause miscarriage.

There have been many studies over the years dealing with caffeine and human health. These studies have looked at the potential adverse effects of caffeine in such areas as:

  • general toxicity (e.g., muscle tremors, nausea, irritability)
  • cardiovascular effects (e.g., heart rate, cholesterol, blood pressure)
  • effects on calcium balance and bone health (e.g., bone density, risk of fractures)
  • behavioural effects in both adults and children (e.g., anxiety, mood changes, attentiveness)
  • potential links to cancer
  • effects on reproduction (e.g., male and female fertility, birth weight)

Health Canada scientists recently reviewed these studies and found that: The general population of healthy adults is not at risk for potential adverse effects from caffeine if they limit their caffeine intake to 400mg per day;

People who get an adequate daily amount of calcium have greater protection against the possible adverse effects of caffeine on bone health. For most people, choosing foods according to Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating can provide the calcium needed for good health;

Compared to the general adult population, children are at increased risk for possible behavioural effects from caffeine; and

Women of childbearing age are at increased risk of possible reproductive effects.Caffeine is not only found in coffee but it is also present in tea, and some soft drinks. \

How to minimize the health risks?

You can estimate your daily caffeine intake to see if it falls within Health Canada's recommended guidelines. To do this, keep track of what you and your children consume, and refer to Health Canada's Fact Sheet, Caffeine in Food. It has a section that lists the amount of caffeine in comparable servings of many products used by Canadians.

To stay within the recommended limit, a pregnant woman could drink a little more than two 8-oz cups of coffee a day, as long as she did not take any other products that have caffeine in them. It is important to realize, however, that many coffee mugs are larger than 8 oz. Also, takeout coffees can be as large as 16 oz (474 ml) or 20 oz (592 ml). Just one 20-oz coffee would contain more caffeine than the daily limit suggested for pregnant women.

An average 8-oz (237 ml) serving of blended tea has 43 mg of caffeine, while the same size serving of green tea contains 30 mg of caffeine. A 12-oz (355 ml) can of regular cola has between 36-46 mg of caffeine. Using Health Canada's recommendations, children aged 4 - 6 could drink either one 8-oz serving of blended tea or one 12-oz can of regular cola a day, as long they do not eat or drink other products containing caffeine that day. However, drinks such as colas should be limited, especially in young children, because of their caffeine content but also because they might displace nutritious foods from the four food groups.Useful links:

* Articles about caffeine at 'Medicine net'

* Caffeine

* 'Health Cananda'

* “10 signs you have had too much coffee”

* Caffeine: Good When You Exercise, Bad When You Rest

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Comments (2)
Ranked #12 in Food Safety

Great presentation on the issue of caffeine.

Good and useful information here, promoted.

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