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Here's Why: | Here's How:

Although extensive study has found no certain link between moderate caffeine intake and increased risk of significant health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and birth defects, there are some conditions that may be improved if you decrease your caffeine intake. If your doctor suggests that you cut down on caffeine, here are some steps to help you do so.

Here's Why:

Caffeine is a mild stimulant. Many people drink coffee, tea, or soda for this effect—it helps them feel more awake and alert. However, this stimulant effect can also cause jitters, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. Each person's tolerance to caffeine is different, and with age, we appear to become more sensitive to the effects of caffeine. There is also some preliminary evidence that persons whose metabolism of caffeine is genetically slower than others’ may be at higher risk for heart attacks if they consume caffeine.

Your doctor may recommend that you reduce caffeine intake in certain situations. For example:

  • If you are pregnant or nursing—During pregnancy, you may be more sensitive to caffeine. Also, caffeine can pass through the placenta and breast milk to your baby.
  • If you have a specific medical problem (eg, high blood pressure, other risk factors for heart attack, gastritis, or ulcers)—Talk to your doctor about how caffeine affects you in order to determine if you need to cut back.

Here's How:

First, you will need to know all the possible sources of caffeine in your diet. The following table should help you judge the relative caffeine content of different beverages. While chocolate does not contain caffeine, for some people the “theobromines” in chocolate have similar effects. We have also listed the caffeine equivalents for some chocolate products below.

Common Sources of CaffeineServing SizeAverage Caffeine Content (mg)
Over-the-Counter Drugs
NoDoz (maximum strength)1 tablet200
Excedrin (extra strength)2 tablets130
Coffee
Coffee, brewed8 ounces133
Espresso coffee2 ounces150
Coffee, instant8 ounces93
Decaffeinated8 ounces5
Tea
Arizona Iced Tea, black16 ounces32
Tea, leaf or bag8 ounces53
Soft Drinks
Mountain Dew12 ounces71
Dr. Pepper, regular or diet12 ounces42
Colas12 ounces40
7-UP or Diet 7-UP12 ounces0
Chocolate Products
Hershey's Special Dark 1.45 ounce31
Hershey's chocolate bar1.55 ounces9
Hot cocoa8 ounces9

Some people experience headaches or drowsiness if they go "cold turkey" from their caffeine intake. Decreasing over a period of time can help prevent these effects. Try the following:

  • Mix half regular and half decaffeinated coffee
  • Drink instant coffee, which has less caffeine than regular coffee
  • Brew tea for a shorter time; a 1-minute brew contains about half of the caffeine that a 3-minute brew contains

If you find that one of the above three methods of gradual cutting back works for you, then you can proceed to the following:

  • Drink decaffeinated coffee or tea, which has almost no caffeine.
  • Drink herbal tea, which naturally has no caffeine.
  • Replace coffee, tea, and soda with water or juice.

If you are watching your waistline, then do not forget that juices and sugar-containing soft drinks may have more calories than some of the caffeinated beverages you are giving up.

You may be surprised at the caffeine content of your favorite beverages or of some of the over-the-counter products in your medicine cabinet. Be sure to check labels for the caffeine content. Many sodas and other products come in caffeine-free forms, so look for these.

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association

http://www.heart.org/

International Food Information Council

http://www.foodinsight.org/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition

http://www.ccfn.ca

References:

Caffeine. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 9, 2012. Accessed June 2, 2012.

Caffeine and heart disease. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4445. Updated February 21, 2012. Accessed June 2, 2012.

Caffeine content of food & drugs. Center for Science in the Public Interest website. Available at: http://www.cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm. Updated September 2007. Accessed June 2, 2012.

Cornelis MC, El-Sohemy A, Kabagambe EK, Campos H. Coffee, CYP1A2 genotype, and risk of myocardial infarction. JAMA. 2006;295(10):1135-1141.

DynaMed Editorial Team. ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated January 26, 2010. Accessed May 18, 2010.

Lopez-Garcia E, van Dam RM, Willett WC, et al. Coffee consumption and coronary heart disease in men and women: a prospective cohort study. Circulation. 2006;113(17):2045-2053.

Last reviewed June 2012 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


 
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