Caffeine, a stimulant drug, causes the central nervous system to speed up the messages going to and from the brain. It is a substance found in the leaves, seeds or fruit of a number of plants, such as coffee and tea plants. A wide range of food and drinks contain caffeine, including chocolate, soft drinks, energy drinks, tea, coffee and some nuts. It can also be taken in capsules, tablets, or powder form.
Caffeine content. If you are curious about the caffeine content in the things you might be eating or drinking as part of your regular diet, check out the Mayo Clinic’s listing of caffeine in common drinks and foods.
Short-term effects. The physical effects of caffeine include increased heartbeat, respiration, basal metabolic rate and increased stomach acid and urine. Small to moderate amounts of caffeine, up to 300mg, can speed up the brain and the central nervous system so that you feel more awake and also increase your concentration and alertness. But, it is important to remember, that caffeine taken late in the day can prevent getting a good night’s rest.
Long-term effects. There are conflicting findings regarding caffeine consumption and the risk of miscarriage, early delivery or low birth weight. Until more is known about the risks of caffeine consumption in pregnancy, the March of Dimes recommends a cautious approach and that pregnant woman should limit caffeine consumption to less than 200 mg a day. If you are pregnant or nursing, you should check with your doctor regarding the recommended amount of caffeine. According to the American Heart Association, studies linking caffeine and coronary heart disease are conflicting. If you have questions regarding the linkages between caffeine and long-term health effects, you should consult your doctor for more information.
Can you overdose on caffeine? If you consume too much caffeine, it is possible that you might have serious health consequences, or even die in extreme circumstances. And if you are in need of immediate assistance, call 911 for an ambulance. The operator will give you instructions for what you should do.
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.