Caffeine

  • Author:
    Betty Kovacs, MS, RD

    Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Read about symptoms and treatment of caffeine addiction and withdrawal.

Caffeine Addiction, Can You Quit?

Up to 90% of adult Americans consume caffeine every day. Most commonly, the caffeine is in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate. This adds up to an average of about 280 mg of caffeine per day, or the equivalent of about two cups of coffee. Many people who consume caffeine on a regular basis report that they experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms when this popular stimulant is withdrawn, similar to the symptoms felt with the withdrawal of other addictive substances.

Caffeine facts

  • Caffeine is a stimulant obtained from over 60 different types of plants worldwide.
  • The scientific name for caffeine is 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine.
  • Caffeine is considered to be the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world.
  • Coffee, soda, and tea are the most common sources of caffeine in the American diet.
  • Discontinuation of regular caffeine use may produce withdrawal symptoms.
  • The effects of caffeine persist for about three hours or less.
  • Caffeine is found in some combination medications and weight control products.
  • The American Medical Association and US Food and Drug Administration consider a moderate intake of caffeine to be "generally recognized as safe."

What is caffeine?

There are few people who are not aware of the stimulating effect that caffeine provides. We have a choice and choose caffeinated beverages for a reason. Caffeine is considered the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world. A majority of adults consume it on a daily basis, and research is being done on its health benefits and consequences.

We may love our caffeine, but what exactly is it? Caffeine is the common name for 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine. When purified, caffeine produces an intensely bitter white powder that provides a distinctive taste in soft drinks. The word "caffeine" came from the German word kaffee and the French word café, each meaning coffee. After ingesting caffeine, it is completely absorbed within 30 to 45 minutes, and its effects substantially diminish within about three hours. It is eventually excreted so there is no accumulation in the body. Caffeine has been shown to affect mood, stamina, the cerebral vascular system, and gastric and colonic activity. But caffeine may not be for everyone. This article will discuss the health benefits and consequences of caffeine.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2015
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