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Cutting back on caffeine

Submitted by on 02.04.2013 – 8:46 pm

For years medical professionals have gone back and forth about caffeine and its effects on people. We have heard it is terrible for you and then find out about newly discovered benefits the following month. As a coffee consumer myself, sometimes I get confused whether I’m making an unhealthy or healthy decision every morning when I start my coffee pot. Recently, Doctor Mehmet Oz, a physician made famous by The Oprah Winfrey Show, had a discussion about a “Caffeine Detox.” Who does this target and why would someone need to go on a caffeine detox? Just the thought of it is scary when so many of us rely on caffeine to keep us awake during all-nighters and stressful midterms and finals.
Caffeine in moderate amounts is not known to be harmful. According to Mayo Clinic, moderate is about 200-300mg per day. This would be equivalent to about 3 cups of regular coffee. But keep in mind that a “regular” cup is about 6 ounces, not the 16 or 20-ounce cups you may be used to.
Negative side effects may occur when a person drinks enough coffee to consume up to 500mg of caffeine or more. These effects include insomnia, nervousness, restless, irritability, upset stomach, muscle tremors, fast heartbeat and anxiety. Symptoms are shown to be more common in men than women.
People have also discussed the affects caffeine can have on weight gain. Overall, caffeine increases cortisol levels in the body. In high amounts, this stress hormone can cause accumulation of belly fat. Cortisol increases blood sugar when you are stressed. Once the stressful event is over, the extra glucose has nowhere to go but to be stored as fat, most commonly around the abdominal region.
Lastly, people forget to include the calories from many caffeinated beverages in their diet plans, which may result in weight gain.
Caffeine, a psychoactive drug, is also a diuretic. Diuretics increase urine output, so if you are drinking or eating products with caffeine in them, you should take into account the extra loss of fluids throughout the day and compensate by drinking more water.
It is also important to note that caffeine easily passes through membranes of the body and can reach all of your tissues within five minutes of consumption. However, the effects of caffeine peak after about an hour.
So if you find yourself reaching for caffeine every time you are stressed or tired, you may want to consider something like a “caffeine detox”.
Dr. Oz mentions it won’t be best to cut out caffeine cold-turkey because of the negative side effects. Cutting caffeine directly out of your diet can result in withdrawal effects that include irritability, headaches, fatigue, and overall grogginess. Instead, he has presented a four-week detox plan to help you successfully and comfortably become caffeine free.  Good Luck.
Kelsey Craft is a Health Education Intern and can be reached at vandalhealthed@uidaho.edu

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