Caffeine can provide a quick boost when your energy is lagging. Many college students supplement their pre-test study regimen with caffeine pills and/or cans of Red Bull and think nothing of it. People who have undiagnosed or untreated conditions like ulcers can pay a particularly high price for taking caffeine pills. While an occasional soda will probably not hurt you, making a habit of it can lead to everything from headaches to withdrawal and even to death, in rare cases.
From Chinese legends to Persian doctors writing about it, the praises of caffeine have been touted throughout history. Originally consumed by chewing the leaves and seeds of the coffee plant, it took many years before someone somewhere (there is no concrete proof of who started it) decided to steep the stuff to make a stronger version.
Caffeine is used in some medications (Excedrin for one) to make them work better by up to 40%. Caffeine can give you a burst of energy with a small amount, wearing off in a few hours and not causing any harm. It works by multiplying receptors in the nervous system. Unfortunately, the body can build up a tolerance to caffeine and wind up needing more and more of it to get the same kick.
The consequence of building tolerance to caffeine is to have withdrawal symptoms (maybe not seeing pink elephants, but shakiness and crankiness for sure) because you become addicted. People can have insomnia from either too much caffeine or withdrawal from it. Caffeine can cause stomach problems ranging from nausea to vomiting blood, and can lead to ulcers.
Soft drinks contain somewhere between 10 and 50 mg of caffeine per serving. Red Bull’s caffeine content starts at 80mg, while Jolt cola has 280mg per serving. Regular strength caffeine pills have about 100mg of caffeine, while extra strength caffeine pills have 200mg. Anything can be overdone. Just because a little is good doesn’t mean that a lot is better, but with an addictive substance, logic becomes irrelevant. You can get to the point that you have to have more of it just to feel “right.”
Caffeine works as nature’s insecticide by killing some insects that eat plants, such as coffee. There are actual cases on file of death by overdose on caffeine. Not from drinking coffee, but from taking caffeine pills. While toxic levels for humans depend on many factors including weight and how much is consumed how quickly, in lab studies slightly less than 200mg killed rats. That was just one extra strength caffeine pill.
If you need a little boost, it’s much safer to gulp a cup of coffee than take a caffeine pill. If you happen to have a susceptibility to caffeine or an undiagnosed ulcer, you could wind up in a lot of pain or even with a life long illness. A temporary push of energy is not worth taking chances with your health. When it comes to caffeine, play it safe and remember that as with most things, moderation is key.