Caffeine and Youth
There is no nutritional need for caffeine, and yet it is the most popular drug in the world. Caffeine is found naturally in more than 60 plants, including the coffee bean, tea leaves, kola nut and cacao pod. Throughout the world, people consume caffeine daily in mochas, coffee, tea, soda and chocolate, and sadly, more and more youth are picking up the bad habit, earlier. Unfortunately, many youth use stimulants like caffeine to stay up and study or compensate for not getting enough sleep.
Caffeine can work as an appetite suppressant for youths or replace nutrient-dense foods when consumed instead of beverages like milk. Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine and can cause stimulation 15 minutes after it is consumed. The effects of the caffeine stay with us for at least six hours, and caffeine is addictive. If a person's body gets used to large amounts of caffeine, then a reduction in caffeine intake can cause headaches, fatigue, and even muscle pain.
Most people use caffeine as a stimulant, primarily in the morning to increase adrenaline production and help them feel alert during the day. The amount of caffeine in less than three 8-ounce cups of coffee a day most likely does not cause any health problems, but the caffeine in six or more 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is excessive. This amount of caffeine leads to anxiety, dizziness and insomnia.
Excess caffeine also increases acid production in the stomach, which can lead to reflux/heartburn, gastritis and even ulcers, if paired with a poor diet. Caffeine is also a diuretic -- it can cause someone to become dehydrated -- which is why a person might feel tired, have muscle soreness, etc. In the long run, caffeine does the opposite of what people want it to do. Drinking plenty of water or non-caffeinated liquids (such as milk or juice) can help you feel less fatigued and help you maintain your energy throughout the day.
If you want to reduce your caffeine intake, cut back slowly, eliminating the equivalent of 1/2 cup of coffee a day. Be aware of the caffeine content in some popular drinks and food:
- Cup of coffee = 115 mg
- Mountain Dew = 55 mg
- Iced tea = 70 mg
- One ounce of dark chocolate = 20 mg