Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Caffeine in the news again

According to a recent poll, Tampa, FL is the most caffeinated place among 20 metropolitan cities surveyed. Seattle, Chicago, New York, and Los Angelos round out the top five. This poll looked at caffeine consumption of products such as coffee, teas, sodas, energy drinks, chocolate, pain relievers, and caffeine pills, as well as surveyors' attitudes and habits.

A few interesting results arose. About three-quarters of those polled did not believe they were addicted to caffeine. Though Tampa had the highest overall caffeine consumption, residents there ranked first in saying they were not addicted to caffeine. Tampa was also first in pain reliever consumption and third in consumption of energy drinks. Seattle still had the number one spot for highest coffee consumption which makes sense as it is home to Starbucks.

Although this survey only included 2,005 people, not a huge study by national standards, I still think these outcomes are useful in general terms. I think most people would not consider themselves addicted to caffeine. There are many people who really need their cup of "joe" in the morning. Not that it is a bad thing, one or two cups of coffee a day. (truth be told, I drink about 4 cups of decaf in the morning, sometimes half-caff) However, people forget about the hidden products which contain caffeine, albeit maybe not as high as energy drinks, but I know I would not have thought of pain relievers or eating a lot of chocolate.

For the record,
residents of Riverside/San Bernardino, California, Atlanta, San Diego, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Dallas consumed the least amount of caffeine in the country, according to this poll.

In another interesting twist with high caffeine consumption, a study in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences discusses high caffeine intake and the propensity to hallucinations. By "high," this is the equivalent of seven cups or more of instant coffee. In this study low caffeine users were equivalent to one cup or less of instant coffee--about 57 mg for one rounded teaspoon The study took into account caffeine products such as coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, chocolate, and caffeine tablets.

Assessing both the caffeine consumption and stress levels, some participants had hallucinatory responses such as hearing voices or seeing things not there, and sensing the presence of dead people. Researchers think that because caffeine may possibly exacerbate the physiological response to stress, more of the stress hormone cortisol is produced, thus leading to a tendency to hallucinate. Though I don't have concrete numbers or specific information, I think this is still a good look into how nutrition and stress play a role on the body and mind.

One important thing to mention as the authors do indicate is that hallucinations aren't necessarily a sign of mental illnesses. Some people have brief bouts while other have them their entire lives. Personally, I've had those moments where I thought I was hearing a certain voice or seeing something that wasn't there. However, I'm not so sure if it was related to just coincidence, caffeine consumption (yes, I was once a caffeine junkie), food or sleep deprivation. Probably a combination of the last three, but I do remember a specific incidence not too long ago where I continued to hear music everywhere. That was bit unnerving and it really made me feel weird, but it did go away.

Related post: Should energy drinks be regulated?


Lola Snow said...

I think it is worrying, but whilst illegal drug taking is on the rise, not to mention all the other worries in the world I find it pretty hard to take coffee induced hallucinations all that seriously when it comes to regulation. I mean the nanny state thing gets a bit ridiculous after a while. I bought a candle the other day, and the label said:

"Warning: Candle is flammable"

But seriously, yes I think people should be warned of the effects of high end energy drinks, but they should focus on the ones they mix with alcohol. A stimulant and a depressing agent together? That's just asking for trouble!

Lola x

Kara said...

I think more people are addicted caffeine than admit to it (like me, haha). I think people think that caffeine is more harmless than it is, but it is actually a drug.

Tiptoe said...

Lola, I agree with you I think there are probably worse substances to be addicted to than caffeine. Energy drinks though, I think do need to have more regulation. I think a few states passed legislation at least into changing the name of an energy drink plus alcohol, something like alcopop I think?

Kara, you are right that more people do not realize they are addicted to caffeine. I guess because of the legality of it in a sense, most people just don't give a thought at all.

Minh said...

Thanks for your post. I would also like to suggest another website with lots more information about eating disorders as well as addictions.