Caffeine is a mild
stimulant that affects the nervous system. The Chinese have been brewing tea that
contained it for centuries. Today, it is commonly found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola
drinks, over-the-counter drugs and in some prescribed medications. Adults derive most of
their caffeine from coffee; children are more likely to consume it in carbonated
beverages. Caffeine can be habit forming, but is not considered addictive because it does
not alter brain chemistry.
Below are some of the most commonly asked
question regarding the effects of caffeine in our body:
Q: Does caffeine pose a health risk?
A: Scientific evidence suggests that moderate
consumption of caffeine does not pose a health risk. The American Medical Association
defines moderate as 200-300 mg a day, which would be equivalent to the amount of caffeine
in one to two cups of coffee. Pregnant women and older adults may be more sensitive to
Q: Does caffeine raise blood pressure?
A: Caffeine can raise blood pressure and the heart
rate temporarily. The rise is similar to an elevation that may result from normal
activities, like climbing stairs. Caffeine is not thought to significantly influence an
irregular heartbeat. When high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat are medical
concerns, diet and exercise should be monitored by a physician.
Q: Does caffeine cause heartburn?
A: Caffeine can cause a muscle between the stomach and
the esophagus to relax; acid backs up into the esophagus and can cause heartburn in some
Q: Will a change to decaffeinated coffee eliminate problems with digestion?
A: Either decaffeinated or regular coffee can stimulate
stomach acid production.
Q: Is there a link between caffeine and gallstones?
A: Recent research has shown that regular coffee
drinkers (two cups a day) may experience fewer problems with gallstones; drinking
decaffeinated coffee did not provide the same benefits.
Q: Does caffeine contribute to osteoporosis?
A: Drinking one cup of coffee can cause a calcium loss
equal to the calcium in one teaspoon of milk; the loss is not considered to be a
contributing factor to osteoporosis.
Q: Should pregnant women avoid caffeine?
A: For most pregnant women, a moderate amount of
caffeine (one to two cups of coffee, for example) can be acceptable. Caffeine is not
thought to contribute to miscarriages but does pass from mother to child through the
placenta and breast milk.
Q: Will caffeine stunt a child’s growth?
A: Caffeine does not stunt growth; choosing a soft
drink instead of a vitamin-and-mineral-rich beverage such as milk, fruit or vegetable
juice, can short nutrients needed for growth and development.
Q: Does caffeine make those who drink beverages with it more alert?
A: Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and may
prompt some people to feel more alert.
Q: Will a cup of coffee sober up a friend?
A: No. Coffee is a stimulant but it cannot replace a
healthy liver, which can detoxify about one alcoholic drink an hour.
Q: Does chocolate contain large amounts of caffeine?
A: An eight-ounce glass of chocolate milk has about 5
mg. of caffeine; as a comparison, a five-oz. cup of coffee has about 115 mg. of caffeine.
Q: Can caffeine-rich sports drinks increase endurance?
A: Caffeine may enhance performance for some, yet
cause others to be jittery. Research has shown that caffeine equivalent to the amount in
one to two cups of coffee can help athletes enhance performance; it should be no surprise
that caffeine also can ease pain. Analgesics like aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen
often contain it.
Q: Want to cut down on caffeine?
A: Decrease caffeine consumption gradually. Mix
regular coffee with decaffeinated coffee or substitute instant coffee, which has less
caffeine. Tea drinkers can reduce consumption by shortening brew time: tea brewed one
minute will have half as much caffeine as tea brewed for three minutes. Try to drink more
water and make a habit of reading the labels on beverages and medications.
How much caffeine?