The Highs and Lows of Caffeine
Many Americans regularly consume caffeine, the most widely used behaviorally active drug in the world. But does caffeine cause more than just a morning boost? Over the years, caffeine has been singled out as a possible factor in cancer and birth defects, among others. Here is a look at why most experts say that moderate caffeine intake is not a habit worth losing sleep over and advice for people who drink too much coffee and want to cut back.
What's New?Energy drinks are the latest entry into the beverage market and perhaps the most potent way to get a caffeine fix. The popularity of these carbonated, caffeine-loaded drinks has skyrocketed since they first appeared on the market in 1997. They are particularly popular among the younger generation, including teenagers. Does the entry of another caffeine-containing concoction into the marketplace prove yet again that we are a nation of caffeine addicts?The US Food and Drug Administration monitors the harmful side effects of energy drinks. Although some were serious, energy drinks are safe. As with other forms of caffeine, moderation and common sense should be applied.
Can You Be Addicted to Caffeine?In a manner of speaking, yes. The majority of Americans regularly consume caffeine, a drug that acts as a central nervous system stimulant. It increases heart rate, boosts urine production, and raises the metabolic rate. The metabolic rate is the speed at which the body burns calories to fuel necessary functions like breathing. Anyone who cannot get going in the morning without a cup of coffee, tea, or a caffeine-containing soft drink knows all too well that caffeine can be habit-forming.While most experts say addiction is too strong a word to be used with caffeine, researchers have identified a condition they call caffeine dependence syndrome. It is characterized by the following:
- Withdrawal symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, and depression
- Caffeine consumption despite causing physical or psychological problems or making them worse
- Unsuccessful attempts to cut back or control caffeine intake
- Tolerance to caffeine—not getting the desired effect with typical consumption or the need to drink more to get the desired effect