While many Americans monitor their diet for calorie, fats, protein, or vitamin intake, they should also be watching how much caffeine they consume. Caffeine can be a tasteless, “silent killer,” often being ingested without knowing it, resulting in a number of unknown problems and health risks.
As a health.com article by Sarah Klein reads, “Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require manufacturers to list caffeine content on nutrition labels, it’s often hard to tell whether a product contains the stimulant, and [exactly] how much.” As a result, caffeine hides in a number of foods, such as chocolates, as well as medicines like common pain relievers. However, the main source of caffeine for most Americans are the obvious sugary dinks, including coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks. According to a 2014 article from HealthResearchFunding.org (HRF), 70% of caffeine consumed daily is by coffee, another 16% is by soft drinks, and 12% is from tea. As for the big picture, HRF reports that the United States consumes some 971 tons of caffeine, making it the greatest caffeine-consumer worldwide. The FDA equates this value to 300 milligrams of caffeine per person per day.
The problem with such an inflated amount of caffeine entering the body is the hidden ailments that it can cause. HRF estimates that 90% of high school students have issues with sleep patterns as a direct result of overconsuming caffeine during the day. It also reported that the chance of becoming obese in the future increases by nearly 60% because of overconsumption. A medically reviewed healthline.com article from 2014 states that caffeine can significantly worsen anxiety disorders and stomach problems, as well as short-term blood pressure. It also discussed the effects of caffeine during pregnancy, saying that overconsumption can stunt fetal growth and quicken the developing heartrate.
Because caffeine is addictive, it is possible for the body to develop a physical or psychological dependence on it. This dependence can be easy to develop, requiring no more than a couple cans of soda each day for some people, which can lead to difficult withdrawals later. The Healthline article found that common symptoms of withdrawals include irritability, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, aching muscles, headache, and occasional tremors. Like most other addictive substances, caffeine users can overdose on it, though it takes an immense amount – 100 average coffee servings within four hours is lethal according to HRF. Healthline reports that signs of an approaching overdose include hallucinations, twitching or convulsions, diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination, breathing trouble, and irregular heartbeat.
Nearly all of these symptoms seem overly severe, and truthfully only apply in cases of extreme overconsumption. In reality, caffeine can be somewhat beneficial. It’s a stimulant for the nervous system that can provide quick bursts of energy when necessary, especially in the morning to help jumpstart the day. This is why 68% of coffee consumers routinely have their first cup within an hour of waking up, says HRF. Energy bars and energy drinks are based on the same idea, providing bursts of energy at the time you need it.
The health.com article dubbed this growing phenomenon of relying on energy bursts from caffeine the “caffeine crutch,” stating that it “wakes up the brain, improves concentration, relieves stress, and may also help you live longer,” so long as intake doesn’t turn to addiction. HRF reports caffeine having other positives to it, such as being a rich source of antioxidants and improving mood, as well as having quick digestion time. Healthline noted how caffeine’s stimulating properties are often utilized to treat drowsiness and headaches, which is the reason it can be found in some medicines. However, nearly all of these beneficial properties of caffeine only apply in moderation.
Overall, people just need be careful regarding what they consume, both regarding caffeine and in general. Caffeine can’t be eliminated from the diet entirely, nor does it need to be, but people need to be aware of what they put into their bodies. Caffeine can be helpful in moderation, but consuming too much can eliminate or reverse the beneficent and dependencies could form. The best philosophy is to consume at will, but watch for and be aware of signs of overconsumption or developing dependence so that each may continue a healthy life.