Are you overcaffeinating? | by Andrea Juarez

Too much caffeine

Posted on Wed, May 9, 2018

Your caffeine habit — whether it’s coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks— may taste good and may even give you that much-needed boost for mental focus and performance. But too much caffeine is not good for your health. And not all caffeine is equal.

“Caffeine is considered a drug,” says Diana Milling, a naturopathic physician with Advanced Integrative Medicine in Lone Tree. “It’s the most widely used substance in the world.”

Caffeine is a stimulant and excessive consumption can cause a viscous cycle of unwanted side effects: from seemingly minor inconveniences like occasionally having difficulty sleeping to the jitters to more serious concerns, like dehydration, lightheadedness, rapid pulse, abnormal heart rhythms, elevated blood pressure, and prolonged taxing of the adrenal glands and elevated cortisol levels, say Milling and other health experts.

Overindulgence can even be lethal. Last year a South Carolina teenager died after drinking a diet Mountain Dew, a cafe latte and an energy drink within two hours.

Dr. Lauren Finney, a pediatrician with Parker Pediatrics and Adolescents, says, “Concern over death is rare.” But she, Milling and other health experts still stress that moderation is key.

Safe Limits Vary

“For healthy adults, the current recommended daily limit for caffeine is 400 milligrams,” says Jessica Crandall, a registered dietitian with Denver Wellness and Nutrition. That’s the equivalent of three to four cups of drip or brewed coffee.

Note, one cup is equal to just 8 ounces and it can pack 95-165 milligrams of caffeine. So make sure that large mug at home or grande at your local coffee shop is counted accurately in your daily limit.

Milling who practices naturopathic medicine recommends a more conservative limit. “For the average, healthy individual, I recommend no more than 250 milligrams daily,” she says. 

For some, however, even a single cup of coffee can have too much caffeine and lead to a bad buzz. Listen to your body for signals of overcaffeination. Your reaction can be impacted by a host of factors such as your size, diet, genetics, and how much you usually consume.

“Caffeine tolerance is individualized and people who are sensitive usually know,” Crandall says.

Women trying to get pregnant, those who are already pregnant and women breastfeeding should also minimize consumption. Since caffeine is a stimulant, it increases blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are not recommended during pregnancy. “It’s not good for fetal growth and development, especially in excess,” Crandall says. Pregnant women should limit caffeine to no more than 200 milligrams.

Milling also tells her patients who have health problems to cut out caffeine. “Individuals who are experiencing chronic fatigue or have underlying health conditions need to use caution with the amount consumed daily,” she says. “For these individuals it is best if coffee/caffeine is avoided all together until their overall picture of health has improved.”

Likewise, kids younger than 12 should not consume caffeine, says Finney. And for kids older than 12, they should have just a minimal amount: only 12-100 milligrams a day. For teenagers, Finney says tea and even home brewed, weaker coffee are better options.

Caffeine Sources

Americans drink the majority of their caffeine and usually it’s in the form of coffee, soft drinks and tea. If you want a coffee alternative, Milling recommends green tea, yerba mate, matcha or white tea.

If you or your kids drink energy drinks, stop. Both Finney and Milling say kids and adults should completely avoid them.

And, when it comes to food products, be on alert. Products made with chocolate and coffee are the usual, known suspects. But there are a growing number of new caffeine-laden products on the market, such as gum, mints, jelly beans, marshmallows, sunflower seeds, bottled water, peanut butter and breakfast products like oatmeal, waffles and syrup. Look for labels that say caffeine has been added.

Caffeine by the Numbers

Leave a Comment

Please be respectful while leaving comments. All comments are subject to removal by the moderator.

Your Comment: