As you sit down to read this today, have you grabbed your favorite cup of coffee? It seems that most of us enjoy coffee or some sort of caffeinated drink every day. Actually, at least 80 to 90 percent of Americans drink some sort of caffeinated product every day, according to a study done at Johns Hopkins. Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world and is non-regulated. It seems silly to call it a drug, but it is a stimulant with many health effects, both potentially positive and negative.
There is about 100mg of caffeine in a cup of coffee depending on how it is brewed in comparison to the contents below: (This can vary widely)
Cup of tea 40 mg
Small chocolate bar 10 mg
Caffeinated soft drink 40 mg
Chocolate milk 4 mg
1 oz. Espresso 40 mg
Over-the-counter stimulants 100-200 mg per tablet
Some may say, “Who cares? Give me that cup of coffee.” Caffeine has been shown in some studies to be protective in moderate regular intake. The Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study surveyed men and women and found that those who consumed the most caffeine had an 18 percent and 15 percent lower risk of basal cell skin cancer, a common type of skin cancer.
In another article published in 2007 in the Archives of Neurology discussed a link between Parkinson’s disease and caffeine intake. The study showed that drinking two or more cups of coffee per day reduced the risk of developing Parkinson's disease by approximately 40 percent.
However, caffeine can also have deleterious effects in addition to causing restlessness, headaches and even muscle tremors. There have been links reported between increased caffeine consumption and bladder cancer in Japan, especially among people with high intake of caffeine daily. Caffeine also has a diuretic effect on the body. It causes the body to urinate more, thereby not serving as a good source of hydration.
I think all would agree that too much caffeine can impact our body physically. It can impact sleep in many individuals, but some become tolerant and can sleep normally. And if you desire to discontinue caffeine, you may have symptoms of withdrawal such as headaches, stomach pains, joint pains and irritability.
Like most things, moderation is key and the effects greatly depend on how your body personally handles caffeine. Most individuals can handle two to four cups per day. But even though caffeinated drinks appear to be everywhere, be aware of the potential effects.
Gregory Sweat, MD, is the Medical Director of the Shawnee Mission Physicians Group and practices Family Medicine at Shawnee Mission Primary Care - Prairie View Medical Building.