The Facts About Caffeine
Caffeine is a drug. It is one of only two drugs contained in food that is a natural part of the food when it is grown. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and cola and energy drinks making it one of the most widely used drugs in the world. Caffeine concentration varies according to the plant variety, the growing conditions and the strength of the given brew. Coffee beans of the arabica strain, grown primarily in Central and South America contain approximately 1% caffeine. Robusta coffee beans, grown in Africa and Indonesia, contain about 2%. The caffeine content of tea leaves can be as high as 5%.
Although tea leaves generally contain more caffeine by weight than coffee beans, 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. Also tea is infused, not boiled.
Most researchers now agree that there is little risk of harm when a person consumes less than 600mg of caffeine a day. At times of anxiety or stress, or during pregnancy, many doctors now recommend consumption of less than 200 mg a day.
The short-term effects of using caffeine may include:
- increased body temperature
- increased urination
- increased alertness
- irritability and restlessness
The use of coffee to sober up a person after drinking alcohol is not effective. It does not improve impaired motor coordination but may make the person more alert. It simply makes the intoxicated person more awake.
What are the long-term effects of caffeine?
Daily use of caffeine in low to moderate doses in most healthy adults does not appear to produce any harmful effects. Substantial daily doses – and in some people even as little as 250 mg per day can lead to unpleasant effects such as:
- flushed face
- increased urination
- stomach upsets
- muscle twitching
Fatal overdose with caffeine is extremely rare, but it is possible. The lethal dose in humans appears to be 5 to 10 grams, although toxic symptoms may appear with lower doses. Some symptoms of caffeine poisoning include tremors (involuntary shaking), nausea, vomiting, irregular or rapid heart rate and confusion. In extreme cases, individuals may become delirious or have seizures. In these cases, death may be caused by seizures that results in an inability to breathe. In less severe cases, high doses have been associated with panic attacks.
Information from NDARC.