The 3 PM Pick Me Up

For many of us, the day does not begin until we roll out of bed to cradle that hot mug of coffee or cup of tea. It kick starts our brain into gear and body into action to start the day. Caffeine works in a similar way to the hormone adrenaline. Your breathing and heart rate start to increase and therefore boosts feeling of mental alertness and energy levels. Who wouldn’t want to start the day like this! I’m sure I wouldn’t! However the main question comes down to”‘Is it good or bad for me and how much should I be having?”

First of all what is it and how is it found?

Caffeine is an ingredient that can be found naturally in the leaves, seeds or fruit of more than 60 plants worldwide. Some of the most commonly known sources of caffeine include coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, kola nuts, and guarana plants. Caffeine can also be produced synthetically and subsequently added to various foods and beverages, including tea, coffee, cola, chocolate, energy drinks, and iced coffee.

Coffee is the single largest contributor to caffeine intake in the Australian diet, with as much as 50% coming from coffee, the remaining share of caffeine intake, is drawn from a variety of sources including cola at 18%, tea at 16%, and energy drinks at 5%.

Ok so how much of this stuff should I be drinking and are there any bad side effects?

According to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) there is currently no recognised health-based guidance value, such as an Acceptable Daily Intake, for caffeine. However, a FSANZ Expert Working Group concluded that there was evidence of increased anxiety levels in children at doses of about 3 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight per day. The anxiety level for children aged 5-12 equates to a caffeine dose of 95 mg per day (approximately two cans of cola) and about 210 mg per day (approximately three cups of instant coffee) for adults.

Concerns associated with caffeine consumption include– cardiovascular disease, problems related to the central nervous system (for example, interrupted sleep and anxiety), and possible risks to foetal health in pregnant women.

The European Safety Authority (EFSA) published in May, 2015 their key findings on safety of caffeine intake, these were;

  • Daily caffeine from all sources up to 400mg per day do not raise safety concerns for adults in the general population
  • Daily caffeine intake from all sources up to 200mg per day by pregnant women do not raise safety concerns for the fetus.
  • Single doses of caffeine and habitual caffeine intakes up to 200 mg consumed by lactating women do not give rise to safety concerns for breastfed infants
  • There is insufficient information available for recommendations for children and teenagers.

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that because caffeine in a drug, we can become addicted to it. And as it’s addictive you could find yourself in a vicious cycle.

Excessive consumption may additionally lead to dehydration, fatigue, anxiety and headaches and are signs that you could be consuming too much caffeine in the diet.

Replacing black tea/coffee with a caffeine free substitute such as herbal tea is a fantastic alternative without those bad side effects. Consuming regular meals with low GI carbohydrates will additionally give you the much need energy ‘glucose’ to get you through those long work meetings!

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