Like many adult, I too need my morning cup of coffee to boost up my energy for the day. Without which I am not able to get the feeling of 'awake" and proceed my day with any of my work. Probably, this happens because we become physically dependent and addicted to our daily dose of caffeine. Caffeine stimulates our central nervous system and makes our body more alert and awake. Usually taking caffeine in the form of two to four cups of coffee or tea is not harmful. In fact, if we stop taking our usual dose, we start getting our withdrawal symptoms of headache, irritability and other problems. However, we are aware and need to be strict about ourselves as too much of caffeine is harmful and can cause problems like irregular heart rhythm, high blood pressure, hard to sleep, anxiety and a lot more.

Naturally caffeine is found in coffee beans, tea plants, cocoa which are used for chocolate products and kola for making soft drinks and colas. Caffeine is used as an additive in many food products like artificial sweetener, variety of coffee drinks and different energy drinks. Many medicines like pain killers contain caffeine to improve their effects. It is combined with drugs like acetaminophen, aspirin and ergotamine. Caffeine is used generously in many confection products like cakes, cookies, chocolate bars, syrups, mousse, shakes and ice creams. Though we are aware that caffeine should be taken in moderation but we have a chance of taking high intake even without realizing it if we do not recognize the food items containing caffeine. So, it would be wise on our part to limit the intake by being aware of the food items with caffeine content and also reading the content of a food product before eating.

Caffeine can be good or bad to our health depending upon the quantity of consumption on daily basis. Studies have revealed that having some amount of caffeine daily in the form of tea or coffee is helpful in lifting our mood, alertness and reduces our fatigability. In addition to this, tea and coffee also contain some amount of antioxidants which is useful for a healthy heart. Besides improving the mental performance, researches have shown that caffeine reduces the risk of developing Parkinson's disease and gall stones. Caffeine can boost the anaerobic metabolism in our body and thereby improves our physical ability and performance. But then, daily consumption of caffeine can lead to dependency. So withdrawal symptoms like headache, irritability develops if we missed our usual cups of tea or coffee. Habitual intake of caffeine can also sometimes lead to 'tolerance' urging us to take more amount of caffeine to get our stimulating benefits. That's how a person can turn into a heavy user or addiction to heavy doses of caffeine. Experts say that in adult, caffeine intake daily should not exceed beyond 500 milligrams strictly otherwise ill effects on our body would appear. If our daily intake exceeds this amount, we need to seriously consider about cutting down. In case of children, the intake should not go beyond 30 -40 milligrams daily. In fact children should not take caffeinated beverages or food items with caffeine content regularly. Caffeine can interfere with calcium absorption in the body. Therefore, in case of children, caffeinated drinks or food should not interfere with their regular intake of food and drinks rich in calcium. Caffeine also reduces the appetite so children having more caffeinated drinks eat less. It increases the risk of miscarriage and pre term deliveries so ideally pregnant women should not exceed the intake of caffeine to 100 - 200 milligrams daily. Likewise, nursing mothers should also limit the intake of caffeine as high consumption can pass on to the baby via breast milk and can cause irritability or lack of sleep to the baby. In case of elderly, bone density decreases naturally due to aging. With intake of significant amount of caffeinated drinks, this effect is increased and the risk of osteoporosis and fractures of hip and spine becomes common in elderly.

Researches says that caffeine exaggerates the sugar level after meals hence people with diabetes should ideally quit tea or coffee if they are habituated. People with panic attacks or anxiety disorder should also avoid caffeine as it can worsen the situation. Heart patients need to control their intake of caffeine regularly as it can make the heart work harder which may sometimes proves fatal. Heavy users of caffeine are likely to develop symptoms like insomnia, restlessness, stomach upset, increased urination, hypertension and cardiac arrhythmias in course of time. Actually, high intake of caffeine has metabolic effects on our body by stimulating the central nervous system, releases free fatty acids from fatty tissues and causes increased urination which can lead to dehydration. Caffeine overdose can be dangerous and can even kill a person. Therefore, keeping in mind both the positive and negative health effects, caffeine intake should be regulated.

The practice of taking tea and coffee has been a part of our life ever since the ancient time. It has become indispensable part of our lifestyle. Likewise, in case of both children and adult, it is quite natural to yearn for chocolate or any such kind of food products. But it is entirely our authority to control the amount of our intake so that caffeine continues to be more salubrious than being harmful. Therefore, like most people, I too will continue taking my cup of caffeine to kick start my day.

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A Medical Professional who likes writing on health related issues.