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Wellness Matters: Questions About Caffeine?

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The following weekly column is written and sponsored by Virginia Hospital Center, a proud member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network and one of America’s 100 Top Hospitals for the third year in a row.

Can’t function without your morning cup of coffee? Find yourself craving a caffeine pick-me-up in the afternoon? You’re not alone. More than 80% of American adults drink coffee, tea or caffeinated soft drinks every day.

Caffeine increases wakefulness, alleviates fatigue and improves concentration and focus. But how much is too much? And how does it affect your health? Dr. James T. Reed of the Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group tests your knowledge here.

True or false?

  • Caffeine is a harmful addiction. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and may cause mild physical dependence, but it is not a serious addiction. If you drink more than two cups of coffee a day and suddenly stop, you may experience symptoms such as headache, irritability or trouble concentrating for a day or two.
  • Caffeine can interfere with your sleep. Heavy caffeine intake, especially late in the day or close to bedtime, can cause insomnia or restlessness. But a cup or two of coffee in the morning doesn’t impact most people’s sleep.
  • Decaffeinated coffee contains caffeine. It’s a lot less than regular coffee, but it’s there. If you don’t want any caffeine, opt for products marked “caffeine free.”
  • Caffeine has health benefits. Recent studies suggest moderate consumption of coffee may reduce the risk of certain diseases including diabetes, liver cancer, Parkinson’s and even dementia.
  • Caffeine can sober you up. False – and a dangerous notion. Many people who drink caffeine along with alcohol think they’re okay behind the wheel. But reaction time and judgment are still impaired.
  • Caffeine causes dehydration. False. Although caffeine can act as a mild diuretic, the fluid you consume in caffeinated beverages tends to offset the effects of fluid loss.
  • Energy drinks have the same amount of caffeine as coffee. Caffeine based energy drinks and supplements are a popular alternative to coffee but consume with caution. The amounts of caffeine contained in same size containers may vary and be problematic.

The bottom line? For most people, a cup of coffee or tea a day won’t harm your health and may offer some benefits. If you have more questions about caffeine or about your overall health, call 703.717.4148 or visit to schedule an appointment with Dr. Reed.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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