From that freshly brewed extra large latte first thing in the morning, to that energy drink that perks you up mid-afternoon — you could be racking up a whopping amount of caffeine over the course of the day without even realising it.

Caffeine is not only found in coffee and tea, says Kate Di Prima, dietitian and spokeswoman for the Dietitians Association of Australia. Energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine, while carbonated drinks have some, as does chocolate.

Although it might be a great pick-me-up when you were feeling sluggish, remember that caffeine could interfere with the absorption of vital nutrients such as calcium, she said. Coffee and tea also contain polyphenols which can bind to iron, making it difficult for the body to absorb that, too.

How much caffeine was too much depended on the amount, frequency of caffeine consumption, a person’s weight and physical condition, among other factors, Mrs Di Prima said.

“But for most healthy adults, 300 to 400mg of caffeine per day won’t cause any negative effects. This is approximately equivalent to two strong espressos or four instant coffees.

“It is possible to have too much of a good thing. “Over-consumption of caffeine can cause anxiety, nervousness and digestive problems, and if consumed late in the day it can prevent a good night’s sleep. In some people, caffeine can increase heart rate and blood pressure.”

University of WA psychology professor Andrew Page said caffeine, being a central nervous system stimulant, could exacerbate anxiety by producing the same heart-pounding, jittery feelings.

“Caffeine is a stimulant and creates physiological arousal. People with panic disorder are especially sensitive, ” he said. “They feel those sensations and misattribute the symptoms to a panic attack.”

Energy drinks were even worse and should be avoided by those sensitive to caffeine, children, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women, Mrs Di Prima said.

According to a study published in the June issue of Pediatrics, children should never consume energy drinks. Caffeine had been linked to a negative health impacts on their developing neurological and cardiovascular systems, the authors said.


Maybe it’s all too hard to drop coffee completely, but you could swap a cup a day for a healthy alternative.

Herbal teas like green tea, Siberian ginseng and chai offer great health benefits. While some do contain caffeine, it is considerably less than coffee.

© The West Australian

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