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Caffeine Still a Major Part of the American Diet

Health effects of caffeine vary by person, should be taken seriously

Jonhson HSWEST CHESTER, Ohio (January 13, 2015) – For many Americans, it’s just not morning without that favorite cup of coffee. In fact, the International Coffee Organization  estimates that 1.6 billion cups of coffee are consumed around the globe each day.

That number represents a lot of liquid, and a large amount of caffeine. Coffee is perhaps the best known source of caffeine – a plant product that acts as a natural stimulant. However, caffeine can be consumed through a variety of sources including beverages, chocolate and even medication, said Aleda Johnson, MD, a Premier HealthNet physician with Liberty Family Medicine.

According to the Food and Drug Administration  (FDA), 80 percent of Americans consume caffeine each day. A healthy understanding of caffeine – where it can be found and how it affects the body – is extremely important, especially in an age when many of its sources, such as coffee, soft drinks and energy drinks, have become a popular part of the American culture, Dr. Johnson said.

“It can be easy to consume caffeine and not really give it a thought,” Dr. Johnson said. “The truth, however, is that caffeine alters the way a brain works and, for many, significantly changes the way they feel. Many individuals can experience real health issues ranging from insomnia to heart palpitations.”

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cords and nerves throughout the body. Its main effect is that it can make an individual feel more awake or alert, but it also does much more. According to the FDA, caffeine can make an individual jittery or shaky, increase a heart rate, elevate blood pressure, create uneven heart rhythms, cause headaches and dizziness, and dehydrate a person.

Individuals with certain health conditions should be careful when consuming caffeine or consider removing it completely from their diet. People with heart issues such as high blood pressure or heart disease could experience negative effects from caffeine. Those who struggle with anxiety may find caffeine can exacerbate their condition. And those with kidney disease should be especially careful since caffeine may cause them to lose more fluid than they should, Dr. Johnson said.

The stimulating effects of caffeine peak in the blood one hour after consumption and can last up to six hours. Caffeine increases the release of acid in the stomach sometimes leading to an upset stomach or feeling of heartburn, the FDA said. Some studies show that caffeine can have a physical dependence or addiction. Withdrawal symptoms of caffeine may include headaches, feelings of depression or irritability.

Yet, caffeine’s effects aren’t always negative. Certain prescription and non-prescription medication such as cold, allergy and pain medication contain caffeine. Scientists have found that caffeine helps aid in the absorption of medication into the body, and helps constrict blood vessels alleviating pressure on areas of the brain, Dr. Johnson said.

Caffeine can be hard to completely avoid and can still be a part of a healthy individual’s diet. The FDA recommends these three steps to safely consume caffeine:

  • Be Informed – Understand what foods and drinks contain caffeine and check food labels to understand how much is present in each serving amount.
  • Count Your Cups – A safe amount of caffeine consumption is 100 to 200 mg each day (that is equivalent to one to two 5-ounce cups of coffee).
  • Make Adjustments – Understand that too much caffeine can lead to serious health issues, and even death in rare cases. If you suspect you are consuming too much caffeine each day take small steps to scale back in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Remember to Hydrate – Be mindful of caffeine’s diuretic effect. Consume extra water when taking medication that contains the stimulant.

For more information on caffeine consumption or to find a Premier HealthNet physician near you, visit www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.

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