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What's Wrong With Caffeine?

Molly Vetter, Dietetic Intern, University of Missouri

Candance Gabel, MS, RD, LD, Associate State Nutrition Specialist, University of Missouri

Do you find yourself hitting the vending machines in the middle of the day? Do you need your favorite caffeinated beverage just to get you "through" your afternoon, or to "get you going" in the morning? If so, you are caffeine dependent.

One of the main problems with caffeine is that it is a diuretic, meaning it dehydrates you. It does this by taking the water out of your body's cells, which causes you to urinate more. Dehydration can lead to a number of annoying side effects such as headaches, feeling weak, and muscle cramps. Caffeine, in large amounts, can cause the body to lose calcium and potassium, causing sore muscles and delayed recovery time after exercise. You may be able to prevent leg cramps by cutting down on the amount of caffeinated beverages you drink.

It is important to realize that caffeine is a physically addicting drug and causes withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, irritability and temporary depression. You may have experienced a couple of these symptoms on days when you skipped your regular amounts of soda or coffee. The Journal of the American Medical Association has classified these caffeine withdrawal symptoms as "caffeine dependence syndrome." Studies show that as little as 100 milligrams, or about two-three cans of soda a day, is enough to cause caffeine dependency. Some types of soft drinks contain more caffeine than others.

Try to limit your total intake of caffeine to less than 100 milligrams a day to avoid the side effects of caffeine and to prevent the caffeine dependence syndrome. The following table lists the amount of caffeine in one can, or 12 ounces, of different types of drinks:



Brand of Soft Drink Caffeine in 12oz. (mg)
Coca-Cola Classic 34
Pepsi-Cola 38
Diet Coke 45
Diet Pepsi-Cola 36
Barq's Root Beer 22
Diet Barq's Root Beer 0
Sprite 0
Pibb Extra 40
Surge 51
Dr. Pepper and diet 41
Sun Drop 63
Diet Sun Drop 69
Sunkist Orange 41
Mountain Dew and diet 55
Coffee, brewed 200
Iced tea 70

Source: National Soft Drink Association




If you do drink more than 100 milligrams of caffeine a day, try to cut down slowly. The slower you cut down the less harsh your caffeine withdrawal symptoms will be. Try replacing one caffeinated beverage a day with a different beverage such as water, juice, sports drink, or drinking half decaffeinated/half caffeinated coffee. Remember moderation is the key!







Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009



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