Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on November 04, 2014

Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much?

Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much?

With excess amounts of caffeine over time,
a person’s body will start to experience a
wide range of health effects.

For some people, a cup of coffee is the only way to get out the door for work in the morning. And then they keep the caffeine flowing all day long to ward off fatigue while improving their concentration and focus. Then there are those who feel jittery after just one cup of tea.

When it comes to caffeine, is it a personal preference or is there a limit to how much caffeine you should consume before it starts affecting your health?

According to Crozer-Keystone’s John Munshower, D.O., who is board-certified in family and geriatric medicine, it’s a little bit of both.

“Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. Those who are susceptible to the effects of caffeine, even small amounts such as one cup of coffee or tea, may have unwanted effects, such as restlessness and sleep problems. Heavy daily use of caffeine, essentially over 500 to 600 milligrams a day, may cause side effects including insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, a rapid heartbeat and muscle tremors,” he said.

If you are a regular coffee or caffeine consumer, up to 400 milligrams of caffeine is usually safe for more healthy adults, he said. Four hundred milligrams is approximately the amount of caffeine found in four cups or brewed coffee, 10 cans of soda or two energy drinks.

While one too many cups of coffee on a busy day at the office can cause some short-term effects, regularly consuming too much caffeine can cause some long-term effects on your health.

“With excess amounts of caffeine over time, a person’s body will start to experience a wide range of health effects,” Dr. Munshower said.

Adverse effects of caffeine overuse may include dehydration and lethargy, a fast heart rate, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation or insomnia, acid indigestion and peptic ulcer irritation, depression, anxiety, headaches, jitteriness and addiction to caffeine.

One of the tricky aspects of caffeine is that if you don’t get a full night’s rest, you may reach for caffeine to stay awake throughout the day. That can then inhibit getting quality sleep the following night, leading to a cycle of sleep deprivation and caffeine overuse.

If caffeine has adverse effects, then why do people still consume it?

“Caffeine is a stimulant, so many people enjoy the immediate side effects it provides by giving them an energy boost. The immediate effect it provides, especially with the feeling of improving a person’s energy, allows this substance to be overused, and often abused. The addicting properties of the chemical may unfortunately compound the issue of ‘overdoing it,’” Dr. Munshower explained.

Putting aside from its addictive properties, caffeine offers some health benefits. In addition to improving mental alertness, caffeine can be combined with painkillers such as aspirin and acetaminophen to treat migraines. It can also be used with painkillers for simple headaches, and for preventing and treating headaches after epidural anesthesia. Additionally, caffeine can be used for treating asthma, gallbladder disease, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), shortness of breath in newborns and low blood pressure. It’s even been used for weight loss and type 2 diabetes.

You should consult with your doctor if you’d like to use caffeine in one of these ways.

You don’t have to cut off your daily dose of caffeine. When it comes to your regular cup of coffee or energy drink, the best way to approach your caffeine consumption is to limit yourself.

“Common sense and using caffeine in moderation should be a priority for all users,” Dr. Munshower advised.

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