Regardless of why (addiction, taste, habit, etc…) it’s estimated that about 90% of the U.S. population regularly consumes caffeine. And it’s not hard to. The stimulant, which has been enjoyed for thousands of years, is found in loads of stuff from beverages and chocolate to pain medications.
While we know it can be counted on to help us in the morning and during the afternoon slump, research is beginning to reveal are other upsides of caffeine like improved memory, enhanced athletic performance, beneficial effects on liver health, and a possible protection against Parkinson’s disease.
But, too much of anything isn’t good for you. So just how much should we have in a day? (Keeping in mind that the effects can vary from person to person due to individual toleration levels.)
Well, a recent systematic review that involved almost 400 studies, looked at adverse health effects associated with caffeine consumption, including general toxicity, cardiovascular effects, effects on bone and calcium, behavioral effects, and reproductive and developmental effects (using caffeine from any source).What the researchers found was that:
- healthy adults can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine daily, the amount in about four 8-ounce cups of coffee. (Depending on the source, an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee can contain 75 to 165 milligrams of caffeine.)
- healthy pregnant women can consume up to 300 milligrams of caffeine daily, an amount that is “generally not associated with adverse reproductive and developmental effects,” though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cautions pregnant women to limit caffeine to 200 milligrams daily.
- children and adolescents should not exceed an intake of 2.5 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight per day, though they state that the available literature for these groups was “scant.” For a child weighing 55 pounds, this translates to a daily limit of 62.5 milligrams of caffeine.
Research does show that most Americans consume less than the daily 400-milligram limit so that’s good but even if you aren’t consuming that much but you are suffering from gastrointestinal problems, trouble sleeping, nervousness, anxiety, irregular heartbeat or excessive urination, it’s time to cut back.
So, what’s the best way to cut back or stop altogether? Our friends at CNN put together a list for us, check it out below:
Tips for cutting back on caffeine
1. Keep a caffeine diary. It can inform you of how much caffeine you are consuming, and it may be more or less than what you may think, Sweeney said. This strategy was a helpful intervention for people seeking treatment to reduce their caffeine use in a study conducted by Sweeney and other researchers at Johns Hopkins University. (In the study, which also involved brief counseling, people reduced their caffeine intake from an average of 600 milligrams per day to 50 milligrams during a six-week period.
2. Know all of the sources of caffeine in your diet.
Remember, caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks and shots, as well as cocoa and chocolate. It’s also present in fortified snack foods, some energy bars (like Clif Bar’s Cool Mint Chocolate and Peanut Toffee Buzz) and even some pain medications, including some forms of Excedrin and Midol. (For a more extensive list of caffeine content from various sources, check the chart
from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.)
3. If you drink coffee, gradually cut back on the number of cups per day. “The key recommendation we have suggested to people looking to cut back is to gradually reduce caffeine consumption over a period of days or weeks,” Sweeney said. “If you’re drinking four cups of coffee per day, you may reduce it by one cup per week. You might also substitute one cup with decaf, or blend in some decaf with each cup,” she said.
4. Try coffee alternatives, such as green or black tea. Tea can still give you a boost but has less caffeine than coffee. An 8-ounce cup of black tea contains about 47 milligrams of caffeine, and green tea has about 25 milligrams per cup, compared with 75 to 165 milligrams in an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee.
5. Anticipate when caffeine cravings may occur.As part of the counseling component in the Johns Hopkins study, and as part of the unit’s ongoing work, individuals identify situations or moods in which they are most likely to crave caffeine. The unit advises avoiding situations that trigger cravings, especially during the first few weeks of modifying caffeine use, and having a plan for when cravings occur, like taking a five-minute relaxation break involving deep breathing exercises.