What's the Buzz on Caffeine?
If you’re anything like me, morning coffee is a necessity. You might find yourself reaching for another cup after lunch, or perhaps a soda or a cup of tea in the afternoon. Caffeine, found in these beverages, is one of the most studied food ingredients. Despite this research, myths about the safety and effectiveness of caffeine persist. So what’s the buzz about caffeine?
Myth: Most of us consume far more caffeine than we should.
Fact: The average American is not over-consuming caffeine. Safe caffeine consumption is around 400 mg/day (equivalent to 5 shots of espresso, 4-7 cups of drip coffee, or 5 cans of energy drinks/day.) Research shows that most Americans consume around 165 mg of caffeine per day. Children come in even lower, with the average child consuming around 25 mg/caffeine per day.
Myth: There is no safe level of caffeine.
Fact: Again, studies show that most adults can tolerate 400 mg/day without ill effects. Teens should keep it to 100 mg/day.
Myth: An energy drink has significantly more caffeine than coffee.
Fact: An 8 oz energy drink contains about the same amount of caffeine as an 8 oz cup of coffee. However, there may be other substances in energy drinks that may cause issues with health. Kids, teens, pregnant women, and anyone with heart rhythm issues should avoid energy drinks altogether.
Myth: Coffee is dehydrating.
Fact: Caffeinated beverages do not dehydrate you, and actually may help your hydration. While caffeine itself has a mild diuretic effect, the liquid in the coffee itself maintains hydration. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has stated that coffee, tea, and soda can all be part of the daily fluid intake.
Myth: It’s not safe for pregnant women to consume any caffeine.
Fact: Studies have found that moderate caffeine consumption is not unhealthy for pregnant women, but it’s always best to discuss with your doctor about your particular situation. If you are pregnant and choose to use caffeinated beverages, keep it moderate at around 200 mg/day. This is the equivalent of about 2 cups (8 oz) of home brewed coffee.
Myth: You can be addicted to caffeine.
Fact: Some people might get a headache or get irritable when they miss their morning cup, but whether this indicates true addiction is up for debate. One concern is that if you consume large amounts of caffeine regularly, you may become tolerant to it--that is, you require progressively larger doses to get the same effect. If you are looking to reduce your caffeine consumption, do so slowly instead of going cold turkey.
Myth: It’s not safe to use caffeine before exercising.
Fact: There is evidence that moderate caffeine consumption may have a positive effect on athletic performance. Keep it reasonable before you work out, though—a cup of coffee before a morning run, for example, is okay to do.