Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Caffeine addiction a real problem

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"DON'T talk to me unless I've had my coffee." It's an offhand joke told every morning, but a new U.S. study suggests caffeine-use disorder is a serious addiction that doesn't get the attention it warrants.

Researchers at American University in Washington, D.C., suggest some people are so dependent on caffeine that they suffer withdrawal symptoms, and even continue to consume it when their condition, such as pregnancy or a heart condition, may be hurt by it. Even though caffeine is the most commonly used drug in the world, the study also suggests health professionals have been slow to characterize caffeine use as problematic, or as an area that requires treatment.

"The negative effects of caffeine are often not recognized as such because it is a socially acceptable and widely consumed drug that is well integrated into our customs and routines," said the study's co-author, Laura Juliano. "And while many people can consume caffeine without harm, for some it produces negative effects, physical dependence, interferes with daily functioning and can be difficult to give up."

Among other factors, researchers say addiction problems may stem from manufacturers not labelling how much caffeine is included in their product.

"At this time, manufacturers are not required to label caffeine amounts and some products such as energy drinks do not have regulated limits on caffeine," Juliano said.

To counter possible over-consumption, the study suggests limiting caffeine intake to 400 milligrams per day, which is the equivalent of about two to three 250-ml (eight-ounce) cups of coffee. For pregnant women, as well as people who experience anxiety, insomnia or high blood pressure, that number drops down to less than 200 mg per day.

To put it into perspective, a venti Starbucks coffee comes in at 700 ml (24 oz), while chains in the U.S. even offer a 900-ml (31-oz) trenta size for iced coffee, which includes caffeine levels well above the suggested daily intake.

Conclusions from the study were reached by summarizing results from previous caffeine research, including data showing how widespread caffeine dependency is, as well as the physical and psychological symptoms experienced by caffeine users.

Last spring, the American Psychiatric Association recognized caffeine-use disorder as a health concern in need of additional research. Juliano said more than 50 per cent of regular caffeine consumers have difficulty quitting or reducing caffeine use.


-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2014

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 3, 2014 D1

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