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Caffeine, Sodium, and Sugar: Silent But Deadly

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Day in and day out, we eat so much food that we hardly consider their effects on our body. Before we even realize it, what we’ve eaten may have already taken a toll on us. While a lot of substances have little effect when taken in small doses, larger amounts can do serious damage to the body.


Sodium is essential to human life. Our body needs it for our muscles and nerves to work properly. It also helps control our blood pressure. There is wisdom in the age-old adage “everything in moderation”. Even if sodium is necessary for our body to properly function, too much sodium can lead to hypertension, which can then increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Aside from cardiovascular diseases, findings show that a higher intake of sodium and salty foods is also linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer. There is likewise an increased loss of calcium through urination when you eat too much salty food. When calcium supply in the blood dips, it can leach out of the bones. This increases the risk of osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease that makes the bones brittle.

A lot of the pre-packaged food we eat on a daily basis may contain a lot more sodium than we are aware of. Though these may not at all taste salty, a lot of them provide -- and often exceed --our daily recommended intake of sodium. As a matter of fact, more than 75% of our sodium intake typically comes from processed, pre-packaged, and restaurant food. This makes it increasingly difficult to monitor and cut back on our consumption of sodium.

Despite this, there are many ways to keep our sodium levels in check. The first and probably most common way is to avoid eating too much processed food. Potassium found in fruit and vegetables such as winter squash, broccoli, cantaloupe, and banana are said to be great at countering the effects of high sodium in the body. Potassium is known to be able to help lower blood pressure by contributing to more flexible arteries and by helping get rid of the excess sodium.

Experts recommend 4,700 mg of dietary sodium per day as part of a balanced diet for adults.


Most working adults need a cup of coffee in the morning to get their day started. Many swear by its positive effects, such as boosting alertness levels and helping them concentrate. Studies show that there may even be more health benefits of caffeine than most people are aware of. Research indicates that caffeine may be able to protect the brain cells, which can help in reducing the risk of developing some diseases such as Parkinson’s. Caffeine also causes blood vessels to constrict, which can help reduce headache pain. Coffee, a common source of caffeine, reduces inflammation and aids in preventing certain heart-related illnesses.

Despite its potential health benefits, consuming too much caffeine also has its fair share of health risks. There is a significant relation between drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee and the decrease in bone mineral density. This is caused by caffeine’s effect of increasing the amount of calcium that is flushed out in the urine. This increase the risk of osteoporosis. Regular consumption of various caffeinated drinks can increase blood sugar levels which can cause problems for people with diabetes.

Excessive consumption of caffeine is also possibly unsafe for people -- it has been linked to stomach irritation, insomnia, restlessness, and nausea. It can also worsen diarrhea and possibly worsen symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Having said that, how do you know how much is too much? In the US, the average adult consumes 300 mg of caffeine a day, or the equivalent of to 2 to 4 cups of coffee. Other sources of caffeine include tea, chocolate, soft drinks, and energy drinks. According to, an adult can safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine a day.

Additionally, it is recommend you cut back on caffeine consumption if you’re consuming more than the daily recommended dose, and you’re experiencing side effects such as:

-          Stomach upset
-          Restlessness
-          Insomnia
-          Fast heartbeat
-          Migraine headache
-          Irritability
-          Nervousness
-          Frequent urination or inability to control urination
-          Muscle tremors

Reducing your caffeine consumption may be challenging, especially for those who have formed a regular habit of consuming coffee, energy drinks, and other caffeinated drinks and food. Here are few tips on how to reduce your overall caffeine consumption.

Check the labels whenever possible. Some over-the-counter pain relievers may contain caffeine. Shortening the brewing time of tea can reduce its caffeine content. Keeping tabs on the amount of caffeinated products you consume is also a very simple way of regulating your daily caffeine consumption.


For most people without any pre-existing conditions, experts agree that some added sugar in the diet is fine. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 38 grams (9 teaspoons) of added sugar per day for men, and no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugar for women. The reality is that an average American consumes 82 grams of sugar a day. This roughly translates to 66 pounds of added sugar per person each year.

A study back in 2008 found that excess consumption of fructose was linked to a condition called leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone responsible for telling our body that it has had enough food. This then leads to a high propensity for over consumption of food, which can then lead to obesity.

Sugar has also been linked to an overall increased risk for heart disease. A 2013 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows strong evidence that sugar could increase the risk of heart failure since it can affect the pumping mechanism of the heart.

Another study on 2013 estimated that 180,000 deaths worldwide can be attributed to the consumption of sweetened beverages. These deaths were said to occur due to association with diseases that are linked to excessive sugar intake, such as cancer and diabetes.

Though most people know that excessive consumption can lead to these illnesses and more, the challenge is knowing how to cut back on sugar intake. Since sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, and sports drinks are the biggest sources of added sugar in the average American’s diet. Reducing consumption or even completely taking them out of your diet can help keep your sugar levels down.

Reading the nutritional facts of what you eat can help you keep tabs on how much sugar you’re consuming. Lastly, and maybe most obviously, would be self-control. Avoiding foods and beverages that are known to be high sources of sugar altogether can have a dramatic effect on your health.

If taken in controlled amounts, sugar, caffeine, and sodium can have little negative effects on our health. Like most things in life, moderation is key.

Arthur Gibbs 


Art is the current executive content director for Project Macro. He has covered health care, lifestyle trends, and business for more than 10 years for different publications. Born and raised in NYC, he prefers biking around the city and traveling the world searching for the next mountain to climb.


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