The Truth About Coffee

Pregnant women should not drink coffee, as declared the newspaper article. Coffee consumption was always considered undesirable for children and pregnant women. Now this old wives’ tale has been vindicated and proven, based on scientific facts….CLICK & SEE

….Self medication can be harmful, consult a doctor when your child is sick….

 The problem with coffee is that it contains caffeine, a xanthine alkaloid that acts as a stimulant. But it is not just coffee that contains caffeine. The compound is also found in tea, carbonated beverages and chocolate.

Coffee contains 40 to 120 milligrams of caffeine per 120 ml, tea 15-30mgm/120ml, chocolate 3mg/30gm and cola drinks 20 to 50mgm/240ml. There can be an acute overdose of caffeine if more than three or four cups of brewed coffee, tea or cola drinks (providing 400 milligrams) are consumed in a short time. This causes caffeine intoxication with restlessness, nervousness, agitation, excitement, insomnia, flushing, urination, muscle twitching, rambling thought processes and speech, irritability and palpitations.

Caffeine ingestion can be fatal if more than 150 to 200 mgm per kilogram (80 to 100 cups of coffee for an average adult) is consumed within a short while. Overdose fatalities can occur in addicted people who snort pure caffeine powder. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system. It makes the person alert with faster and clearer thought processes, improved focus, coordination, endurance and peak performance, especially in sports.

If large amounts are consumed over a prolonged period, caffeinism, addiction or dependency can occur. The person exhibits nervousness, irritability, anxiety, tremulousness, muscle twitching, insomnia, headaches, palpitations, peptic ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Tolerance develops quickly, especially among heavy coffee and cola drink consumers. Withdrawal is associated with symptoms such as headache, irritability and an inability to concentrate, which may last for days.

About 10 per cent of heavy coffee or tea drinkers develop symptoms that mimic organic mental disorders with anxiety, agitation and panic attacks. They may be misdiagnosed and unnecessarily medicated. Withholding caffeine would have actually cured them in a few days. Children should not be given tea or coffee, because caffeine stimulates their nervous system. They cannot tolerate more than 45 mgm of caffeine a day. Children who consume more than this become nervous, jittery, hyperactive, have difficulty concentrating and sleeping and have a rapid heart rate.

Parents sometimes do give their children cola drinks. Some of the orange or lime and lemony flavoured drinks also contain caffeine. The ingredients should be carefully checked on the beverage label before it is given to the child.

During the hot summer months, drinking caffeine-containing beverages to overcome thirst is actually counterproductive. Caffeine acts a mild diuretic (it increases urine production). Thirst is not assuaged and dehydration may be aggravated.

However, coffee and tea drinking is not entirely bad. Caffeine increases alertness and reduces drowsiness, two qualities essential for those on night shift work or driving a vehicle for a prolonged period of time.

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Also, coffee enhances the action of many painkillers. The onset of action is faster as absorption is rapid and eventual relief is 40 per cent better. Many over-the-counter (OTC) headache, cold and flu drugs contain caffeine.

Coffee and tea drinking is also associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, gallstone disease, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholic cirrhosis and Parkinson’s disease. Adults can safely consume two to three cups of coffee daily as it has no detrimental long-term health consequences and may even confer some health benefits.

Menopausal women are more sensitive to caffeine than their menstruating counterparts. It may produce jitteriness and interfere with sleep at lower levels. The traditional tea time consumption may need to be curtailed to ensure a good night’s rest.

Women have to be careful about their caffeine intake from all sources (not just tea and coffee) if they are pregnant or are planning to have a baby. The best time to stop is around a month before the pregnancy is planned. This abstinence should ideally be continued throughout the pregnancy. The caffeine is harmful because it stimulates the baby’s immature metabolism and stresses it. It is also suspected to decrease blood flow to the placenta. This in turn increases the risk of miscarriage and may eventually result in a small, underweight baby.

If you want to enjoy your cup of tea or coffee:-

• Start after you are an adult

• Restrict yourself to three or four cups a day

• Avoid additional caffeine in carbonated beverages

• Have your last cup at least six hours before your bedtime

• Avoid both tea and coffee during pregnancy.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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