Although extensive study has found no certain link between moderate caffeine intake and increased risk of significant health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and birth defects, there are some conditions that may be improved if you decrease your caffeine intake. If your doctor suggests that you cut down on caffeine, here are some steps to help you do so.
Caffeine is a mild stimulant. Many people drink coffee, tea, or soda for this effect—it helps them feel more awake and alert. However, this stimulant effect can also cause jitters, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. Each person's tolerance to caffeine is different, and with age, we appear to become more sensitive to the effects of caffeine. There is also some preliminary evidence that persons whose metabolism of caffeine is genetically slower than others’ may be at higher risk for heart attacks if they consume caffeine.
Your doctor may recommend that you reduce caffeine intake in certain situations. For example:
- If you are pregnant or nursing—During pregnancy, you may be more sensitive to caffeine. Also, caffeine can pass through the placenta and breast milk to your baby.
- If you have a specific medical problem (eg, high blood pressure , other risk factors for heart attack, gastritis, or ulcers)—Talk to your doctor about how caffeine affects you in order to determine if you need to cut back.
First, you will need to know all the possible sources of caffeine in your diet. The following table should help you judge the relative caffeine content of different beverages. While chocolate does not contain caffeine, for some people the “theobromines” in chocolate have similar effects. We have also listed the caffeine equivalents for some chocolate products below.
Cut Back Gradually
Some people experience headaches or drowsiness if they go "cold turkey" from their caffeine intake. Decreasing over a period of time can help prevent these effects. Try the following:
- Mix half regular and half decaffeinated coffee
- Drink instant coffee, which has less caffeine than regular coffee
- Brew tea for a shorter time; a 1-minute brew contains about half of the caffeine that a 3-minute brew contains
If you find that one of the above three methods of gradual cutting back works for you, then you can proceed to the following:
- Drink decaffeinated coffee or tea, which has almost no caffeine.
- Drink herbal tea, which naturally has no caffeine.
- Replace coffee, tea, and soda with water or juice.
If you are watching your waistline, then do not forget that juices and sugar-containing soft drinks may have more calories than some of the caffeinated beverages you are giving up.
You may be surprised at the caffeine content of your favorite beverages or of some of the over-the-counter products in your medicine cabinet. Be sure to check labels for the caffeine content. Many sodas and other products come in caffeine-free forms, so look for these.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 06/2012 -
- Update Date: 06/02/2012 -