Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

May 2010 Wellness Tips


All About Coffee

Coffee is the most popular part of breakfast in the United States. With millions of us jump-starting our day with coffee, are there any health risks to drinking caffeinated beverages? How much coffee is too much?

Caffeine sensitivity depends on the amount you drink, the frequency, your weight, physical condition and other factors. For most healthy adults, 200-300 milligrams of caffeine per day -- about two to three cups of coffee -- pose no physical problems.

Caffeine acts as a mild stimulant to the central nervous system. However, for some, excessive caffeine can cause anxiety, insomnia, headaches or stomach irritation. A recent study looked at caffeine intake in women from 60-70 years old and found that nearly three cups of coffee a day can lead to spinal bone loss, since caffeine causes natural calcium loss, and that can result in increased bone thinning.

Dehydration, especially from consuming too much caffeine, can tire and exhaust the body quickly. Caffeine is a diuretic that actually makes the body excrete and waste water that it needs. You should drink an additional glass of water for any caffeine you consume.

If you're looking to reduce your caffeine consumption, keep in mind that it is contained in a growing number of foods. Along with coffee, tea and colas, caffeine can also be found in:

--non-cola soft drinks like root beer and orange soda;
--energy drinks;
--hot cocoa;
--chocolate and coffee-flavored candy.

You can switch to consuming less caffeine by recognizing how much you drink and slowly taper down your intake. For several days, keep a small journal to write down the drinks and food you consume throughout an average day. Take particular note of coffee, tea and sodas.

Fill a cup of coffee with half-caffeinated and half-decaf. Continue to decrease the caffeine until you are drinking only decaffeinated coffee.

Dilute your coffee with a little more milk or water each day to gradually cut back on caffeine consumption. Or, turn coffee into a special treat, rather than a daily requirement.

Brew tea using decaffeinated tea bags or substitute an herbal tea that is naturally decaffeinated. Replace sodas with a caffeine-free version or substitute with water or flavored water. Read food and beverage labels to be aware of caffeine as an ingredient.

Drinking water in the morning rather than consuming caffeine revitalizes the body by helping it to excrete toxins, instead of valuable vitamins and minerals, and by starting to exercise in the morning, you can feel more energized without depending upon the stimulating effects of caffeine.

Cindi Dinger, on behalf of the Wellness Committee