Caffeine is without a doubt the world’s stimulant of choice. Most adults consume about 200 milligrams of caffeine on a given day – that’s equivalent to about five cans of Coke, four cups of tea, a large bar of chocolate, or two cups of instant coffee. If you like your coffee more “upmarket”, you may be consuming much, much more. Starbucks Grande for example contains an amazing 550 milligrams of caffeine. Just one cup will put you up around the level that many health experts believe is of concern.
Interestingly tea leaves generally contain more caffeine by weight than coffee beans, with tea leaves containing up to five percent caffeine content (coffee beans are up to two percent). However, there is usually more caffeine in a cup of coffee than in a cup of tea because more coffee beans than tea leaves are used to make each regular cup.
It is known that caffeine can affect heart rate, temporarily raise blood pressure, stimulate the nervous system, and increase digestive tract activity – it’s not your imagination, a morning cup of coffee can indeed act like a mild laxative. Also heavy coffee drinkers tend to ingest more fatty foods, drink more alcohol and generally smoke more than non-coffee drinkers.
Even with low doses of caffeine (below 200mg), however, you may be at risk of caffeine withdrawal. Although you may drink only two cups a day, your body can become dependent upon it. Stopping abruptly can result in moderate to severe withdrawal headaches. You can stave off the headache by reducing your caffeine intake very slowly rather than going cold turkey. Surprisingly, taking two pain relievers may help your caffeine headache, but may not be helping you in your effort to cut back. If you take a look at what is contained in many of these products you will find that caffeine is a central ingredient. Aspirin and other painkillers get a pretty substantial power boost from caffeine.
Most researchers now agree that there is little risk of harm when a person consumes less than 600 mg of caffeine a day. If you can keep your caffeine intake below that level you need not worry about the negative health effects. If you are consuming more, you should start to seriously consider cutting back.
Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blasé.