CAFFEINE count (mg.)
Over-the-counter drugs (1 tablet)
Coffee (8 oz.)
Espresso (1 oz.) 40
Tea (8 oz.)
Sodas (12 oz.)
Diet Coke 47
Diet Pepsi 36
Pepsi One 56
Mountain Dew 56
Dr Pepper 42
Sun Drop 65
Chocolate (1 oz.)
Hot chocolate (8 oz.) 5
Chocolate milk (8 oz.) 5
The first thing that probably comes to mind when the highway lulls you into grogginess is caffeine – in the form of coffee, soda, tea, chocolate or some over-the-counter drug. How much caffeine is too much? Is it addictive? Are there any health benefits?
Justin Yelle, 35, who has been an owner-operator for five years, used to rely on caffeine to keep his round-the-clock schedule. “I was on call all the time, and I was living off caffeine,” he says. Now he usually doesn’t have more than three sodas a day, and he doesn’t drink coffee. The building materials hauler, like many people, thinks caffeine can’t possibly be good for you. “I can’t see any positive health benefits,” Yelle says.
However, decades of research and centuries of consumption confirm the safety of moderate caffeine consumption – about 300 mg. a day, the amount in three or four cups of coffee.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies caffeine as “generally recognized as safe.” The American Medical Association has a similar position, and most experts agree that moderation and common sense are the keys for consuming caffeine.
According to independent studies cited on the National Coffee Association’s website, www.coffeescience.org, coffee even has some benefits. “Drinking two to four cups of coffee a day may lower the risk of colon cancer, gallstones, cirrhosis of the liver and Parkinson’s Disease, among other diseases. It can even reduce the incidence of asthma.” The site goes on to say, “Coffee is an excellent anti-depressant and an effective performance enhancer, improving one’s memory and energy level for mental and physical activities.”
The International Food Information Council Foundation dispels more misconceptions about caffeine, such as that it causes cancer, is addictive and increases chances for cardiovascular disease. And the Coffee Association says there is no evidence that caffeine causes dehydration.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders does not list caffeine with drugs that cause dependency, even though there are mild symptoms associated with cutting out caffeine, such as headaches, irritability, fatigue, nausea, disorientation and forgetfulness. To decrease the symptoms, gradually decrease your intake.
One effect that comes with long-time moderate to heavy consumption is that caffeine loses its potency. Duncan MacEachern, 55, drinks three or four cups a day. “I’ve been drinking coffee maybe 30, maybe 40 years, and it doesn’t really keep me awake anymore,” says the owner-operator from Hammond, Ind.
Even if you find caffeine still helps you stay alert, its effect is short-lived, so don’t count on it as a substitute for sleep. But as long as you consume only a moderate amount, you can rest assured that it poses no major health problems.