A coffee or two each morning to get you going and sharpen your wits mostly does no harm. But sip on caffeine-containing drinks all day and it can turn into a habit that leaves your heart racing and you feeling jittery, anxious and irritable, as well as light in the pocket.
It’s possible to find yourself in a vicious cycle: you’re tired and you’re drinking coffee to get you through the day but the amount of caffeine is stopping you getting a decent night’s sleep.
If you’re thinking you’ve been overdosing on caffeine, it’s good to note down where you’re getting your caffeine from and then slowly cut back rather than go “cold turkey”.
What does caffeine do to the body?
Caffeine is a stimulant that blocks the effect of the chemical adenosine in the brain; adenosine normally acts as a brake, slowing neural activity and helping make you sleepy. Caffeine can also cause the release of adrenaline, which makes your heart beat faster for example.
Caffeine in coffee, tea, some soft drinks, colas, energy drinks and chocolate (including hot chocolate drinks) remains in the body for three to five hours, but it can affect some people up to 12 hours later. Even if you don’t think caffeine affects you, it may be disrupting and changing the quality of your sleep. Avoiding caffeine for six to eight hours before going to bed can help improve sleep quality.
Coffee is just one of many foods and drinks that affect sleep.
How much caffeine can I handle?
People who consume more caffeine usually build up a tolerance to it. Infrequent drinkers can find one coffee sends them spinning. It’s not easy to know just how much caffeine is in a drink. A typical single espresso coffee has 80mg to 100mg of caffeine and tea about 50mg. Generally, adults can tolerate up to 300mg per day without problems.
A new New Zealand report has itemised the caffeine content of many commercial brands of energy drinks and soft drinks. It found the amount of caffeine in energy drinks and energy shots was unsuitable for children and teenagers. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also restrict their caffeine intake to a minimum.
Some people are more sensitive to caffeine
Some people survive all day on almost nothing but coffee and others feel like they need medical assistance after just one instant coffee. The reason is that some people really are more sensitive to caffeine than others: in “sensitive” people, the enzyme (CYP1A2) that breaks down caffeine in the body is less active, so the caffeine has a greater effect. This difference is genetic.
The unwelcome news from a 2006 study is that caffeine-sensitive “slow metabolisers” seem to have a higher risk of caffeine-related heart attacks.
Even “decaf” contains caffeine
Decaffeinated coffee generally means less caffeine but not “no caffeine”. So if you think you can get away with drinking more coffee or tea just because you have switched brands you may not end up feeling much better for it.
One way to help keep the caffeine habit in check is to
make sure you are drinking the right amount of water.
Article provided by UBM Medica (NZ) Ltd. For more health information and advice visit everybody.co.nz and liveto100.co.nz.