The smell of coffee in the morning makes it tough to stay away from the coffee maker. But can we actually become addicted to caffeine like we can to other drugs?
Medical literature is filled with contradictory information regarding its effect on health. Some studies suggest that large amounts of coffee may reduce the risk of conditions such as gall bladder disease. Others show it to have a detrimental effect on things like sleep, blood pressure and bone density.
There is no clear-cut answer on what effects caffeine may have on the body's health. For now, let's look at some of the evidence on caffeine's addictive potential.
We know that caffeine is a stimulant. Stimulants elevate heart rate and blood pressure, can make us more alert and may even improve performance in certain sports. In fact, the International Olympic Committee, in its doping regulations, has in the past included caffeine on its list of restricted agents. Stimulants, caffeine may cause a physiological dependency.
Most withdrawal symptoms started within 24 hours of the last serving of caffeine. The symptoms peaked within the first two days and then trailed off, sometimes lingering for more than a week. A daily dose of caffeine did matter (i.e., more caffeine, more withdrawal), but some folks had symptoms when withdrawing from even small amounts.
Researchers found five main withdrawal symptoms:
- Mood changes
- Inability to concentrate
- Flu-like symptoms
Withdrawal headaches from caffeine make it difficult for people to quit. It's not fun to suffer when you know that a jolt of caffeine will fix the problem. Nonetheless, studies like this one reinforce the age-old adage that moderation is key.
Aim to find that happy medium when consuming any product containing caffeine. A general rule of thumb is to limit caffeinated beverages to no more than two servings daily. Still, an 8-ounce cup of coffee may contain twice as much caffeine as a 12-ounce cola, so two cups of coffee would have much more caffeine than two sodas. In spite of this discrepancy, I think it's a worthwhile rule to follow. For most folks, applying this limit to their routines will keep them from the headaches and hung-over feeling that can come with caffeinated drinks. For the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, I'm Dr. Tedd Mitchell, and this is the President's Prescription.
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