The hidden dangers of caffeine

Caffeine consumption is on the rise in Australia, as the number of coffees consumed skyrockets. Last year Australians drank 1 billion coffees in cafes and another 4 billion at home. The consumption of energy drinks has grown from over 34 million litres in 2011 to more than 155 million litres in 2010, making it the fastest growing beverages market in Australia, according to the Australian Beverages Council.

But there are also a surprising number of foods which contain caffeine. Chocolate, muffins and breakfast cereal can all contain high levels of caffeine, which may not be included on the label. Where caffeine is ‘naturally present’, such as in foods like cocoa, the amount of caffeine in the food does not have to be included in the ingredients list.

The long-term effects of high doses of caffeine are currently unknown and, despite health warnings, there are no dietary guidelines in Australia on caffeine consumption. It is known that, short-term, excessive consumption of caffeine can lead to insomnia, nervousness, headache, tachycardia (fast heart rate), arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) and nausea.

The Dieticians’ Association of Australia recommends that you don’t drink more than four or five cups of instant coffee per day, but there is currently very little data on which to base recommendations. You can find out how much coffee you are really consuming by taking a look at this handy table from the Better Health Channel.

How many cups of coffee do you drink per day? Would you consider cutting down on your caffeine?