NEWS FROM NEELS CAFFEINE: Risks, Benefits, and Lesser Known Facts

By Jon Frieda


Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. It is commonly consumed in coffee, tea, and a variety of soft drinks, like soda and other carbonated energy drinks.  While caffeine has several positive attributes, overuse is common and widespread, and has the potential to lead to several health debilitating conditions.

Caffeine is classified as a psycho stimulant. It can have the temporary effect of improving mental or physical bodily functions.  Individuals who consume caffeine on a regular basis will find that the stimulating effects of the drug are substantially reduced.  This caffeine tolerance can develop quickly among heavy coffee, tea, soda and energy drink users, who may consume these beverages to achieve increased energy and alertness, only to find that they end up feeling more drowsy and fatigued, and often end up with a headache and nausea symptoms.  This cycle makes it relatively easy to develop a caffeine tolerance, due to the fact that withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability and the inability to concentrate can only be eased or lessened by consuming more caffeine.

Caffeine is absorbed by the stomach and small intestine within fifteen to forty-five minutes of consumption, and the half-life in the body is around four to five hours depending on the individual. Mentally, the effects of caffeine can produce enhanced alertness and awareness, as well as wakefulness mood energizing effects and increased talkativeness. Physical effects include an increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, as well as reduced fatigue, sleeplessness, dilated pupils and dry mouth.  Individuals with insomnia, hypertension, anxiety or panic disorders should limit or eliminate caffeine consumption all together.

With a variety of caffeinated products on the market today, the choices for getting an energy jolt are endless. Most people do not pay attention to the caffeine content on the label, or the label simply does not list the true caffeine content per serving. The average cup of coffee can contain between forty to one hundred milligrams of caffeine, but can soar to over three hundred milligrams, depending on the method of preparation, and the size of the cup. Tea contains less caffeine than coffee and can range from around fifteen to fifty milligrams per cup. Energy drinks are less consistent, and can range from ten to eighty milligrams per twelve ounces, and contain significantly more sugar than coffee or tea. For instance, one twelve ounce cola can contain as much as twelve teaspoonfuls of sugar, adding to the energy jolt and creating an even unhealthier scenario for many individuals who consume such beverages several times a day.

One major area of concern for health officials is the fact that many caffeinated beverages are marketed to be attractive to children, which is why many schools have removed soda vending machines from school premises. Still, that does not stop children from gaining access to such beverages before and after school, as there are no restrictions on age for purchasing highly caffeinated and sugared beverages. Health officials have coined the term “liquid candy” for such drinks, and warn that excessive consumption can cause hyperactivity in many children, and school officials nationwide have noted that many children who have trouble concentrating and behaving in the classroom admit to consuming caffeinated and sugared drinks on a regular basis.

While doctors recommend consuming no more than one hundred milligrams of caffeine per day, Americans on average take in around two hundred and fifty milligrams a day.

The use of caffeine is not all bad, however, as it is used quite effectively in headache, migraine, and pain relievers.  Caffeine is often added to such over the counter and prescription medications due to the fact that it is a vasodilator. That is to say that it dilates blood vessels, relieving the vasoconstrictive migraine headache.

Caffeine is wholly unregulated, and for so many of us it can represent a slippery slope when we consume it without regard for how it affects us. A couple of cups of coffee per day are not bad, but a pot a day habit can cause the gastrointestinal lining to deteriorate, and over time lead to ulcers. One can of cola a day is not bad, but a two liter a day can lead to weight gain, adrenal fatigue, immune suppression, tooth decay, and more. Therefore, like all indulgences, caffeine should be consumed in moderation.

For more information on caffeine and its effects on the human body, contact Jon or Patty Frieda at Neels Pharmacy in Crestwood. 314-849-3123.