If one your New Year’s resolutions is to “get healthier” then read on. Surely among your newly minted list of things to do (or not do) is to watch your diet and the amount of caffeine you ingest. Right?
Watch out: caffeine is about as ubiquitous as water these days in food products and beverages. So much so that there’s been a call for labeling standards to help us all know just how much we’re getting and from where. Currently there are no guidelines, so yes you could be having sleeplessness nights thanks to that afternoon gum, candy bar snack, and sip of “water” (laced with caffeine).
In a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, a Duke University professor of medical psychiatry, Dr. James Lane, points to a number of side effects of excess caffeine:
- Exaggeration of attention deficit disorder
- Hyperactivity and insomnia
- Increased blood pressure, heart rate, and secretion of stress hormones
- Increased risk of hampering the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels
All of these problems directly relate to serious medical conditions in our society that are largely preventable.
Caffeine does have its pluses and is not harmful in reasonable amounts, which are around 200 to 300 milligrams per day. But do you know how many cups of coffee or cans of soda that amounts to? Or how many jelly beans that equals (yes, caffeine can be found in some of these classic treats!)?
I doubt labeling will change what people eat or drink all that much. Who is going to start counting milligrams of caffeine throughout the day? The goal should be to become aware of what you’re ingesting and whether or not it contains any caffeine. If you consume fewer than five things a day that contain caffeine, you probably won’t enter the excessive category (though I don’t mean five triple espressos from Starbucks). What to be mindful of:
- Headache medicines that contain caffeine
- Consuming caffeine late in the day
- Coffee-flavored treats like ice-cream and yogurt
- Dark chocolate, which naturally contains caffeine - a piece or two is fine!
- Energy drinks and sodas that pack a serious jolt
Cheers to sleeping well this 2010.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™