Myths and Facts
has always been a hot topic with its various myths. Such
stories on the "coffee craze" sometimes have focused
on caffeine and health. Here, four experts dispel popular
myths about caffeine:
Parents should avoid giving children caffeine-containing
foods or beverages.
According to Judith Rapoport, MD, chief of the Child Psychiatry
Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, most
children don't react adversely to caffeine with the portions
they typically consume. "With our studies, the majority
of children had unremarkable responses to caffeine,"
Rapport said. "I don't do any more research on children
and caffeine consumption because the outcomes were not out
of the ordinary." Rapoport recommended that parents
use common sense in giving their children normal portions
of caffeinated foods and beverages, including soft drinks
and iced tea.
Caffeine causes hyperactivity in children.
Studies show children are no more sensitive to caffeine
than adults. Rapoport said most well-conducted scientific
studies have not shown any effects of caffeine-containing
foods -- or diet in general -- on hyperactivity or attention
deficit disorder in children. "I remain skeptical of
any claims that caffeine causes hyperactivity in children
based on our own research and the weight of scientific evidence,"
Pregnant women should avoid caffeine.
Research indicates that moderate caffeine consumption does
not cause adverse health effects in the pregnant mother
or child, nor does it affect fertility.
to James Mills, MD, chief of the Pediatric Epidemiology
Section of the National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development, "We are fortunate to have a large database
on caffeine and pregnancy from different studies. Overall,
the data reinforce the safety of moderate consumption of
caffeine during pregnancy."
pregnant women who wish to consume caffeine-containing foods
and beverages, Mills recommended 300 milligrams per day
as a safe level of caffeine intake, the amount in three
to five cups of coffee or several cans of soft drinks.
Caffeine's effects are addictive, similar to serious drugs.
"Absolutely not," said Charles O'Brien, MD, chief
of psychiatry at the Veterans Administration Medical Center
and professor and vice-chairman of psychiatry at The University
of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
emphasised that whereas cocaine and heroin are highly addictive
drugs and produce serious health, social and psychiatric
effects, absolutely no evidence suggests that caffeine produces
similar outcomes. In the true medical sense, caffeine "addiction"
would imply using caffeine in an abusive, out of control
way in an attempt to get high, or using it in a manner that
is harmful to oneself or to one's family or surroundings.
people reach their normal daily level of caffeine consumption,
they usually have no desire to consume more," said
comparing a safe substance such as caffeine to cocaine and
heroin trivialises the dangerous effects of these substances
and sends mixed messages to youth. "In the end, linking
caffeine with serious drugs may suggest to kids that cocaine
and heroin are not as dangerous as they truly are,"
It is difficult to reduce or eliminate caffeine intake.
The effects of reducing or stopping caffeine intake are
mild for the vast majority of people. "The majority
of people have no problems when consumption of caffeine
is decreased over the course of several days rather than
all at once," O'Brien said.
Caffeine causes breast disease.
Both the American Medical Association's Council on Scientific
Affairs and the National Cancer Institute have concluded
that there is no association between caffeine intake and
fibrocystic breast disease. According to Laurie Green, MD,
an obstetrician-gynecologist with the California Pacific
Medical Center in San Francisco, "Many women wonder
whether lumpiness in the breast tissue is due to caffeine.
Studies show that benign breast disease -- which is the
lumpiness -- has absolutely no link to caffeine. I feel
completely comfortable with my patients consuming moderate
amounts of caffeine," she added.