Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Health
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)|
|Barq's Root Beer||22|
|Diet Barq's Root Beer||0|
|Dr. Pepper and diet||41|
|Diet Sun Drop||69|
|Mountain Dew and diet||55|
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