How caffeine helps us, hurts us and why we crave it

pouring a cup of coffee
An 8 oz. cup of coffee contains anywhere from 80 to 100 milligrams of caffeine, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA recommends people consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day.
Pexels | Photo by Chevanon Photography

Did you kick start your day with a cup of coffee or get through the afternoon slump with an energy drink? Many people rely on caffeine to give them a boost of energy. But is it good for us?

Caffeine is naturally present in coffee, tea and chocolate. Over the last couple decades it’s been added to a growing variety of other foods and products, including soft drinks, energy drinks, diet pills and even chewing gum and lotions.

For the most part, research has found that adults can consume moderate amounts of caffeine without harm, and it may even do us some good. Caffeine is associated with lower rates of depression, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, gallstones and liver cancer.

But caffeine can also disturb sleep, worsen anxiety and increase the rates of miscarriage for pregnant women. In rare cases, a large quantity in a short time can be fatal.

MPR News host Angela Davis spoke with a doctor and a journalist about what caffeine does and why we crave it. 

Guests: 

  • Dr. Donald Hensrud is an internal medicine doctor and medical director of the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Living program in Rochester. 

  • Murray Carpenter is a journalist and author of “Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us.” He lives in Belfast, Maine.

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