Caffeination Nation

It’s 8:30am, how many of you have already had your morning caffeine fix? (I have!) According to research caffeine is probably the most frequently ingested pharmacologically active substance in the world. That's pretty understandable considering it's found in so many common beverages and products we encounter and drink on a daily basis. Coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, products containing cocoa or chocolate, medications and nutraceutical supplements all contain caffeine in varying dosages.

It seems as though caffeine is now so ingrained in our social culture that most have forgotten that it is in fact a drug. Strain et al. states “a recent medical study confirms that caffeine is strongly addictive, with subjects exhibiting syndromes of intoxication, withdrawal and dependence”. I can surely attest to this. One of my closest friends is almost impossible to have a conversation with in the morning before she has had her morning coffee--it's like trying to talk to an irritable zombie that's hungry for human brains (ok well maybe that's a BIT of an over exaggeration…). She would routinely try and wean herself off of coffee only to be struck with headaches and fatigue that would bring her crawling back to the magic beans.

Interestingly, Gilliland K. and Bullock W. refer to this as “caffeinism, a syndrome which includes increased anxiety, depression, frequency of psychophysiological disorders and possibly degraded performance” in their article Caffeine: a potential drug of abuse. Furthermore, chronic heavy caffeine ingestion has been said to potentially “cause or exacerbate anxiety and may be associated with depression” and actually aggravate the symptoms associated with PMS. (Clementz GL and Dailey JW: Psycotropic Effects of Caffeine)

So do you know how much caffeine you are having on a daily basis? Health Canada gives the following general caffeine contents in milligrams (mg):
  • 1 cup coffee – 76-179 mg
  • 1 cup “average blend” tea – 43 mg
  • 1 cup green tea – 30 mg
  • 1 can cola (regular) – 36-46 mg
Interestingly after visiting Starbucks' nutritional information page I’ve gathered the following information:
  • Grande Caffe Americano – 225 mg
  • Grande Bold Pick of the Day (brewed coffee) – 330 mg
  • Grande Flavored Latte – 150 mg
à Keep in mind that a Grande is actually 16oz (so 2 cups) however, that is generally the standard size most people are consuming.

Hold on, coffee can’t be all THAT bad right? It MUST have some redeeming qualities… and it does! The health-promoting properties of coffee are often attributed to its rich phytochemistry, including chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, hydroxyhydroquinone (HHQ), etc. According to a 2011 review done by Sultan MT “Many research investigations, epidemiological studies and meta-analyses regarding coffee consumption revealed its inverse correlation with that of diabetes mellitus, various cancer lines, Parkinsonism and Alzheimer's disease.” Also, coffee containing cafestol and kahweol may act as a safeguard against some malignant cells and decrease oxidative stress. Another group of studies state that in non-chronic caffeine users there have been significant improvements in cognitive performance noted in those who are not affected by caffeine withdrawal.

On the other hand, it has been stated that higher levels of caffeine raise cholesterol, posing a possible threat to heart health, for example, heart attack, stroke, insomnia and cardiovascular complications.

So what are the safe daily recommendations of caffeine intake and how can you stay reaping the positive effects?

Health Canada recommends the following:
  • 4 - 6 years: 45 mg/day

  • 7 - 9 years: 62.5 mg/day

  • 10 - 12 years: 85 mg/day
Women (who are planning to become pregnant, pregnant women and breast feeding mothers):
  • 300 mg/day
General population:
  • 400mg/day
From a preventative standpoint, Health Canada suggests that getting an adequate daily amount of calcium and staying within the range of about 400mg/day of caffeine can provide greater protection against the possible adverse effects of caffeine on bone health. Also, never underestimate the power and importance of a good night’s sleep or the mighty power nap!


A long time athlete and health advocate,  Dr. Kumentas’ goal is to help her patients become excited about making positive lifestyle choices in order to enjoy healthier, happier lives.  Her driving force is a passion for healing the whole person on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level using carefully selected natural therapies, fitness, and integrated medicine.  She truly believes in the importance of practising what you preach and investing in your health.  
Dr. Nadia Kumentas practices at Zen Beginnings Wellness Centre in Toronto and has a special interest in dermatology, woman’s health, and pain management.

To learn more about Dr. Nadia Kumentas visit or contact her at

Additional References:
Health Canada:


Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I am addicted. I love everything about my organic fair trade coffee :). I have made the switch at home to swiss water decaf and am quite happy with the lack of side effects. Great post!

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