More About Coffee
By David Meinz, MS, RD, FADA, CSP

As we said in an earlier article, the news about moderate intake of caffeine is good. If the research ever does show any significant harmful effects of coffee ­ and it doesn't right now ­ it will be in those who are consuming amounts above that of moderation.

There are, however, very definite uncomfortable side effects for some people. Caffeine can contribute to anxiety, stomach upset, an inability to fall asleep, and restlessness once you do get to sleep. On the other hand, many are able to consume massive quantities without the slightest symptoms. And, though not definite, some evidence suggests that women who are having a hard time becoming pregnant and are also consuming a lot of coffee might want to decrease their intake. While there are many reasons for conception difficulties several studies have indicated that those with high coffee consumption have more difficulty than those who consume a moderate intake. And while we're on women's health, some women, but not the majority, have also found less pain and discomfort from fibrocystic breast disease when they decrease their coffee intake. Since caffeine does cross the placenta, it can also linger in the baby's tissues for several days. Once again, here's a suggestion that it may be better for a pregnant woman to significantly cut down on her coffee consumption.

If you determine you do need to cut down on your caffeine consumption, you can do so without going through the pain of caffeine withdrawal. As a matter of fact, if you've been having trouble with headaches on weekends, look to your coffee cup. When we get out of our regular Monday through Friday routine - and coffee consumption - many Saturday and Sunday headache sufferers are simply going through the beginning stages of caffeine withdrawal. A recent study at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was the first to show that these withdrawal symptoms can occur in moderate or even low coffee drinkers. If you're trying to decrease your intake of coffee or caffeine, do it slowly. Going cold turkey can result in depression, severe headaches, decreased energy and fatigue. One way to dramatically decrease your performance on the job is by cutting your caffeine intake too quickly. To ease off, try mixing equal amounts of regular coffee with decaf for a week. Then cut it in half again for several more weeks until you're only drinking caffeine-free. You'll accomplish your goal and you'll avoid most of the very common side effects of caffeine withdrawal.

Remember, to figure your allowance for a moderate level of caffeine per day simply take your body weight, in pounds, and multiply by two. That number, in milligrams, is a good level for you. The chart below will give you a good idea of what items are contributing the most to your daily intake of caffeine.

Even though we have no research that proves any negative health problems from moderate consumption of coffee, there may be another factor to consider. Excessive coffee consumption is often associated with many other truly harmful health practices, including excessive cigarette smoking and high dietary fat intake. So it may not be the coffee, but what it's consumed with. Excessive levels of coffee consumption may be consumed with excessive levels of other unhealthy substances.

And a final note, coffee does not help people sober up. Contrary to popular belief, caffeine does not get rid of the intoxicating effects of alcohol. It may help wake you up, but that's it. It certainly doesn't make you a safe driver. The reality is that it takes about an hour to "burn off" one drink with 1 1/2oz. of hard liquor, 5oz. of wine or 12oz. of beer.

How Much Caffeine Is In . . . ?
PRODUCT AMOUNT CAFFEINE   PRODUCT AMOUNT CAFFEINE
Dexatrim 1 capsule 200 mg.   Mountain Dew 12 oz. 54 mg.
Nodoz 1 tablet 100 mg.   Dr. Pepper 12 oz. 40 mg.
Anacin 1 tablet 32 mg.   Coke 12 oz. 46 mg.
Excedrin 1 capsule 65 mg.   Diet Coke 12 oz. 44 mg.
Coffee, brewed 5 oz. 115 mg.   Pepsi 12 oz. 38 mg.
Espresso (avg.) 6 oz. 90 mg.   Diet Pepsi 12 oz. 36 mg.
Cappuccino (avg.) 6 oz. 90 mg.   RC Cola 12 oz. 36 mg.
Coffee, instant 5 oz. 80 mg.   Sunkist Orange 12 oz. 42 mg.
Tea, brewed 5 oz. 50 mg.   Diet Sunkist Orange 12 oz. 0 mg.
Tea, instant 10 oz. 60 mg.   Sprite 12 oz. 0 mg.
Cocoa Beverage 5 oz. 4 mg.   7-Up 12 oz. 0 mg.
Chocolate Milk 8 oz. 5 mg.   Hires Root Beer 12 oz. 0 mg.
Dark Chocolate 1 oz. 20 mg.    
Milk Chocolate 1 oz. 6 mg.  

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