Caffeine is not just a cup of coffee, it is a part of our daily rituals. Alarm goes off, wake up, brush your teeth, shuffle to the kitchen, and turn on the coffee pot. Coffee supplies that immediate stimulation that makes us feel awake and ready to start our day. It becomes a routine, a cycle, and for some an addiction. Over 90% of the population consumes caffeine in one form or another during the day.
Where is caffeine found?
Caffeine is a natural component of cocoa, coffee beans and tea leaves. It is also commonly found in sodas, and over the counter (OTC) medications.
When making a cup of tea or coffee the amount of caffeine can vary greatly with each cup. Many factors influence the amount of caffeine per serving in a cup of tea. A few include: how the leaf was dried, temperature of the steeping water, the amount of time the tea is allowed to steep, and most influential is the type of tea. Coffee has many of the same influences that tea has on its caffeine content. Depending on the type of coffee, how it is ground, and the amount of grounds and water used to brew a cup change the amount of caffeine in each serving. It is important to note that most iced teas and coffees are “double brewed” which means that twice the amount of grounds or leaves are used per cup; doubling the amount of caffeine.
One of the newest sources of caffeine are energy drinks, that are largely composed of caffeine, sugar, and other stimulants. Companies can get around the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) limits on caffeine, 0.02% composition, by calling their products “dietary supplements.”
Recently the Food and Drug Administration has come under scrutiny for their failure to monitor energy drinks. This was in response to the dealth of a young girl, age 14, in October 2012, as a result of drinking two 24-ounce Monster energy drinks.
The young girl had a disorder that weakened her blood vessels. When she consumed 480mg of caffeine, well above the recommended daily limit for an adult of 300mg her body entered a state of “caffeine toxicty” which resulted in a heart attack.
It is not that energy drinks should be avoided or eliminated from the market. Energy drinks, when consumed in moderation, can be an alternative to beverages such as coffee and tea. “The poison is in the dose.” It is crucial for consumers to understand the recommended limit of caffeine and how it reacts within his or her body.
Here is a video that further explains the young girls’s story and how caffeine has such an influence on one’s health.
How much caffeine should I consume?
Caffeine generally serves one purpose, a perfect source for a short “burst” of energy. There are many more sources of caffeine available to us, compared to those who lived generations ago. Recent research suggests that caffeine can have health benefits; but only up to a certain point. Too much caffeine can begin to have a negative effect on an individual. For this reason many medical professionals, including those at John Hopkins Medical Center, recommend that no more than 300milligrams (mg) of caffeine be consumed in a day. There is not a lower limit set for caffeine because there is no nutritional need for caffeine in the diet. Much like caloric needs and limits, caffeine limits vary based on an individual’s height, weight, activity level, metabolism, and level of tolerance. The 300 mg recommended limit is set to protect a majority of the population. There can be individuals who can consume more, or should consume less than this amount.
What equals 300mg of caffeine?
With so many sources of caffeine children and adults often exceed the recommended limit of 300mg per day.
Does caffeine impact a child’s growth?
Years ago the adult population occasionally consumed caffeinated products such as soda, coffee, and tea. Teenagers were allowed sweetened, caffeinated beverages on special occasions, while children drank chocolate milk “once in a blue moon.”
Caffeine now plays an integral role in our everyday lives. This is a result of product advertisements in the early 20th century, such as the one below. In this add parents are targeted, and pressured to give their young children soda. It was said that soda products “promote an active lifestyle,” “boost personality,” and finally “[soda] provides the essential sugars.” The add later states that giving a toddler soda will help them through their teen years. Absurd adds like these were everywhere in society, and became the driving force behind increased sweetened beverage consumption.
The recent obesity concern among children has motivated researchers to examine the dietary intake of teenagers and children. What they found was a direct link between sugar ridden, caffeinated beverages and weight gain.
It is not that caffeine is the enemy, and that it must be completely eliminated from the diet. The key is moderation. Canada placed a recommended limit of caffeine on preschool and middle school aged children. A preschooler is supposed to consume no more than 45 milligrams, while an older child can have up to 100 milligrams.
If too much caffeine, in the form of candy bars and soda products are consumed the child is at a greater risk. Their growth and development is impeded because the unhealthy products they consume displace other nutritionally balanced options, such as water, milk, and whole fruits and vegetables.