Caffeine is one of the most common drugs consumed in the Western world but does it shrink the brain? It is a known stimulant and can be consumed safely in the right amounts. Caffeine can be found in common foods and drinks such as coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, kola nuts and guarana plants. Caffeine can also be produced synthetically and then added to many foods and beverages including tea, coffee, cola, chocolate, energy drinks, and iced coffee.
The more caffeine you drink, the greater the effect on the kidney because a side effect of caffeine is that it acts as a diuretic by telling your kidneys to excrete more water. This can quite quickly lead to dehydration specially if you are not drinking enough water to cover that amount.
The safe amount of daily caffeine is around 200 mg for adults, 90 mg for teenagers, and very little for children. Caffeine can be hidden in food products, especially those promoting improved ‘energy’ or ‘weight loss’ it is important to read the labels.
I remember one patient who was having difficulty with insomnia, headaches and anxiety. When I asked her how much caffeine she had in a day she mentioned that she thought she was having very little. But when we examined exactly how much she was consuming it was way above healthy safe limits. She was drinking on average three cups of coffee a day, one of these was a medium-sized latte from the local café, as well as two cups of green tea. She was also having a small chocolate bar for afternoon tea.
This conservatively equated to a total of 350 mg of caffeine a day. In addition to the excessive amount of caffeine consumed, when we undertook some metabolic testing she was actually metabolising caffeine at a slow rate, meaning that it took her body at least twelve hours to clear 100 mg of caffeine (the average person takes 3–6 hours to clear this same amount). No wonder she was having so many caffeine-related symptoms. When we reduced the amount of caffeine she was consuming her symptoms largely resolved within a week.
Another ‘liquid brain shrinker’ is alcohol.