Caffeine has been in the news recently as a result of the unfortunate death of the young boy in South Carolina. Caffeine is a drug that affects the central nervous system. It can make people feel more alert. For most adults, consuming 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine daily is not harmful. However, more caffeine can cause problems.
High levels of caffeine can cause irritability, upset stomach, nervousness, diarrhea, anxiety, increased heart rate, difficulty sleeping, increased blood pressure, headaches, dehydration, and difficulty concentrating.
Sources of caffeine
Caffeine is found in tea leaves and kola nuts. It is also found in coffee and cocoa beans. Tea, cola drinks, coffee, cocoa, and chocolate are natural sources of caffeine. Americans get the most natural caffeine by drinking coffee. The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee or tea depends upon how it is made. Generally, brewed coffee or tea has more caffeine than instant coffee or tea. Longer brewing time also increases caffeine content. Coffee and tea that are darker in color usually contain more caffeine.
Espresso and chai teas may contain more caffeine. Dark chocolate contains more caffeine than milk chocolate.
Soft drinks often contain added caffeine. Caffeine content of soft drinks varies from zero to 72 milligrams per 12-ounce serving. Diet drinks often contain more caffeine than their regular counterparts.
Energy drinks are drinks that claim to increase energy and performance. Not to be confused with sports drinks, many energy drinks on the market contain caffeine, a variety of B vitamins and minerals as well other ingredients. Too much caffeine can be a central nervous system stimulant and too much can cause an increased in heart rate, elevate blood pressure, nausea, anxiety, dizziness, restlessness and tremors.
Energy drinks as well as water with added caffeine have become very popular among young people. They can contain from 50 to 300 milligrams of caffeine per can or bottle. Energy drinks can also cause dehydration and sleeping problems. If they are consumed while a person is working out, they can cause a severe loss of fluids.
Some people mix energy drinks with alcohol to stay alert. This is a dangerous trend. The high levels of caffeine in energy drinks mask the effects of the alcohol so people don’t realize they are impaired. This habit can lead to drunk driving, blackouts, dehydration and vomiting while asleep.
Medicines are another source of caffeine. Over-the-counter diet aids may contain 200 milligrams per capsule. Pain medications often contain between 16 and 70 milligrams per capsule.
Caffeine can become habit-forming. People who regularly drink beverages with caffeine often find that they need higher doses of caffeine to get the same effects. When caffeine intake is stopped suddenly, some people experience headaches, temporary depression, muscle pain, and drowsiness. It is best to reduce caffeine slowly. Try cutting back one caffeine drink per week until you reach 100 milligrams or less per day.
Caffeine and children
Children are much more sensitive to caffeine. They can face the same side effects as adults by eating or drinking a smaller amount. The United States does not have guidelines for caffeine intake for children, but Canadian guidelines suggest a limit of 45 milligrams per day for preschool children. This is about the same amount of caffeine in one 12-ounce soft drink. Soft drinks are the main source of caffeine for children in the United States.
To keep your children happy and help prevent caffeine addiction, please follow these tips:
— Watch your children’s caffeine intake and discourage them from drinking more than one soda a day or super-sizing their drink.
— Give your children an appealing alternative, such as juice or flavored water.
— Don’t substitute diet soda for regular. Diet soda may have less sugar, but usually have more caffeine.
Source: Kentucky Cooperative Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Creamy Veggie Salad
4 cups fresh broccoli florets
4 cups fresh cauliflowerets
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas, thawed
5 green onions, sliced
½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
½ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons horseradish
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, cauliflower, peas and onions. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Pour over vegetables and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-862-4591.