Have You Gone Caffeine Crazy?
Overdoing It with Caffeine
Almost 90 percent of us kick-start the day with a jolt of caffeine -- 71 percent get their fix from coffee, 16 percent from caffeinated soft drinks, 12 percent from tea -- and that invigorating buzz we crave is available on virtually every street corner. Specialty coffee chains now dispense giant mugs of java, while convenience stores are stocked to the rafters with new caffeinated waters and high-octane energy drinks, which carry names like Cocaine, Krank2O, VPX Redline, Monster Energy, Red Bull, and Full Throttle. In fact, energy drinks make up the fastest-growing segment of the beverage market. Soon you won't have to settle for only drinking your java juice -- a North Carolina scientist has invented caffeine-fortified doughnuts and bagels.
More than ever, in the course of a normal day (a cup or two of coffee in the morning, a soda with lunch, an energy drink for the afternoon slump), those caffeine milligrams can creep up on you. A standard coffee cup once held about 8 ounces, and that amount of non-gourmet coffee has around 100 milligrams of caffeine. A Starbucks 16-ounce grande, however, clocks in at a nerve-jangling 260 milligrams, and if you're a venti gal, you're sucking down 325. Trade regular colas for energy drinks and you can double or triple the amount of caffeine you get. Caffeine also hides in some surprising places: coffee- and cappuccino-flavored yogurt and ice cream, some types of orange soda, and OTC painkillers, including Anacin and Excedrin.
"With all the coffee and energy drinks around, more people are overdoing it with caffeine," says Laura Juliano, PhD, a psychologist at American University who has studied caffeine dependence. "Yet people don't realize the impact it can have on their lives, such as causing chronic sleeplessness and anxiety."
What's more, caffeine sensitivity varies widely. Though no one can say exactly how many milligrams of caffeine are too much, we all have an individual caffeine tipping point. And because caffeine is habit-forming, it takes strategizing to make sure you get the boost you want when you need it without building a tolerance to the point that you're getting a health-jeopardizing overload. Making it tougher to track your intake: There's no FDA requirement mandating that a product's nutrition label include how much caffeine it has. In March 2006, however, Pepsi-Cola started voluntarily listing caffeine on content labels of some products. In November 2006 Coca-Cola followed suit.
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