The Perks of Caffeine
What is caffeine?
Classified as a drug, caffeine is a bitter substance found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, some nuts and certain medicines. Nine out of 10 Americans consume some form of caffeine regularly. It has many effects on the body's metabolism, including stimulation of the central nervous system. It can make one feel more alert and give a boost of energy.
For most people, the amount of caffeine in two to four cups of coffee a day (200 to 400 mg.) is not harmful. Coffee has an unfortunate reputation for causing many health problems, but recent research indicates that coffee may not be as terrible as previously thought - protecting against Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes, and liver disease. It also appears to improve cognitive function and decrease the the risk of depression.
There are exceptions, though. Drinking too much unfiltered coffee may cause elevated cholesterol levels and too much caffeine can make one feel restless, anxious and irritable. It may also prevent a good night's sleep and cause headaches and abnormal heart rhythms. Furthermore, if heavy caffeine use stops, it can cause withdrawal symptoms.
How much is too much?
Certain circumstances call for reducing the amount of caffeine you consume. If any of these situations apply, you should cut back:
- You consume unhealthy amounts, more than 500 to 600 mg. a day
- You have caffeine sensitivity. People with smaller body masses, those who do not usually consume caffeine, and those who are overly stressed all will feel the effects of caffeine consumption sooner.
- You're not sleeping well. Caffeine interferes with the ability to get a good night's sleep.
- You're taking certain medications. Some medications and supplements negatively interact with caffeine. This includes antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin and norfloxacin, bronchodilators such as theophylline and the dietary supplement ephedra (ma-huang). Ephedra is especially risky when combined with caffeine because it increases the chance of heart attack, stroke, seizure and even death.
How to curb consumption
Caffeine can be habit-forming, so any attempts to stop or lessen the amount you consume can be challenging. An abrupt decrease can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability and nervousness - ironically, the same symptoms too much caffeine can cause!
- Know how much caffeine is in the foods and beverages you consume. You are likely taking in more than you realize.
- Gradually reduce the amount of caffeine you take in.
- Replace caffeinated coffee, tea and soda with their decaffeinated counterparts.
- When preparing tea, brew for less time. This cuts down on its caffeine content. Or choose herbal teas, which do not contain the stimulant.
- Check the caffeine content in over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, vitamins and supplements you take.
- Helpful tip: just because a product is labeled as "decaffeinated" doesn't mean it is caffeine-free, especially when it comes to coffee. Be sure to read labels carefully and look for "caffeine-free."
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TrueNorth offers businesses of every size comprehensive solutions to meet their business needs and those of their employees. If you are in need of business solutions and are looking for ways to protect and maximize your workforce, look to TrueNorth. Our Employee Benefits Division can assist you in providing for the well-being of both you and your staff. Call us today at 1-800-798-4080.
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