Caffeine is the trusty sidekick of morning warriors, midday adventurers, and late-night thinkers. But while moderate caffeine consumption can offer benefits like increased alertness and improved mood, knowing when you’ve crossed the line into excess is essential. Read on to discover the effects of caffeine on the body, recommended daily intake levels, and signs of caffeine overdose.

The Basics of Caffeine

Caffeine, naturally found in coffee beans, tea leaves, and cocoa beans, is a stimulant. It works by inhibiting the function of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleepiness in the brain. As a result, caffeine can increase alertness, reduce fatigue, and enhance concentration and focus.

Common Sources of Caffeine

Caffeine is present in various everyday products, making it readily available to consumers. Some of the most common sources of caffeine include:

Coffee: A popular beverage worldwide, coffee is a significant source of caffeine.

Tea: Tea, particularly black and green tea, contains caffeine. The caffeine levels in tea are generally lower than those in coffee.

Soft Drinks: Many carbonated soft drinks contain caffeine.

Energy Drinks: Energy drinks, designed to provide a quick energy boost, often contain high levels of caffeine and other stimulants.

Chocolate: Cocoa beans, used to make chocolate, also contain caffeine. Dark chocolate generally has higher caffeine levels than milk chocolate.

Recommended Daily Caffeine Intake 

The amount of caffeine a person can consume daily without experiencing adverse effects varies depending on age, weight, and individual sensitivity. However, several health organisations provide general guidelines:

South African Health Products Regulatory Authority: The SAHPRA suggests that up to 200 mg of caffeine within a six-hour period is generally considered safe for healthy adults.

It’s essential to remember that individual tolerance can vary significantly. Factors like genetics, medication interactions, and pre-existing health conditions can influence how caffeine affects each person.

Signs of Excessive Caffeine Consumption

Consuming too much caffeine can lead to adverse short and long-term effects. Here are some signs that you may have exceeded your caffeine tolerance:

Insomnia

Sleep issues (insomnia, reduced sleep time, delayed sleep onset, and shortened REM sleep) are common indicators of excessive caffeine intake, especially if consumed close to bedtime.

Jitters and Nervousness

High doses of caffeine can lead to restlessness, nervousness, and an increased heart rate.

Digestive Issues

Overconsumption of caffeine can cause stomachaches, acid reflux, or even diarrhoea in some individuals.

Headaches

Ironically, excessive caffeine intake can lead to caffeine withdrawal headaches when you don’t consume it regularly.

Increased Anxiety

Caffeine can worsen anxiety symptoms in those who are prone to anxiety disorders.

High Blood Pressure

Regularly exceeding recommended caffeine limits can contribute to elevated blood pressure levels.

Heart Palpitations

Some people may experience irregular heartbeats or palpitations after consuming excessive caffeine.

Dependency

It is possible to become addicted to caffeine. Withdrawal symptoms like irritability and fatigue can occur when caffeine intake is reduced.

Understanding Caffeine Content

To manage your caffeine intake effectively it helps knowing the caffeine content in common beverages and products:

Coffee

While caffeine content in coffee varies widely depending on the type, brewing method, and serving size, a medium-sized cup of brewed coffee contains around 95 mg of caffeine.

Tea

A small cup of brewed black tea typically contains between 40 and 70 mg of caffeine. Green tea generally has a lower caffeine content, averaging 25-45 mg per cup.

Soft Drinks

A can of Coca-Cola, for example, contains about 34 mg of caffeine.

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are often loaded with caffeine and, depending on the brand, can contain anywhere from 80 mg to 500 mg of caffeine per serving.

Chocolate

The caffeine content in chocolate products varies, with dark chocolate having the highest content. A standard (28-gram) serving of dark chocolate can contain 20-60 mg of caffeine.

Conclusion

Caffeine can help boost alertness and productivity when consumed in moderation. However, too much caffeine can be bad for your health. Be mindful of individual tolerance levels, follow recommended daily intake guidelines, and recognise excessive caffeine consumption signs. By doing so, you can enjoy the benefits of caffeine while maintaining a healthy balance in your daily life, promoting both physical and mental well-being.

Medical Society offers healthcare plans that cover a range of convenient Telehealth Consultations with a Nurse, Doctor, or Mental Health Professional and various medical services at our strategically located medical centres nationwide. Contact Medical Society for helpful advice on how our service can assist you and your family and more beneficial information on safe caffeine consumption levels.

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