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How much coffee is too much?

The Telegraph answers questions related to healthy diet and lifestyle choices

Dr Gita Mathai   |   Published 21.09.22, 03:35 AM

I keep feeling tired and lethargic during my workday, so I drink coffee. I wind up drinking around eight cups a day.

Coffee contains caffeine, and this provides a boost which perks you up. Unfortunately, the boost is short-lived. An intake of around 400mg of caffeine is safe. This is usually the amount found in four cups of coffee.

If you are sensitive to caffeine or take too much, it can manifest as anxiety, irritability, inability to sleep, restlessness, tremors and palpitations.

There are other ways to get a sustained boost, like eating fruit: oranges, bananas or else a handful of nuts.

You might also benefit from standing up, taking a few deep breaths, and doing light stretches.

Feet burn

I developed a burning in my feet. The doctors did a blood test and said I have Vitamin B12 deficiency. How is it possible? I eat a balanced diet.

Vitamin B12 is required to keep the nerves healthy. A non-vegetarian diet with adequate amounts of meat, fish and eggs usually provides sufficient B12. Vegetarians can get it from dairy products. Vitamin B12 binds to an R factor in the stomach for absorption. As age advances (especially after 50 years), the stomach cells producing the R factor may reduce. This can also occur with autoimmune thyroid disease, regular antacid use and some medications. Vitamin B12 can be supplemented with pills or injections.

Processed food

My children eat lots of chips, chocolate and instant noodles. I must confess that during a busy day, I also find such food convenient and easy. Is this alright?

Unfortunately, UPF (ultra processed food) is widely advertised. They are tasty and habit-forming. Chips, candy and cola drinks are the first line offenders. They provide empty calories without nutrients such as protein or fibre. Regular and excessive consumption of these foods leads to obesity and its complications — heart disease and colon cancer.

Artificial sweeteners

I am trying to lose weight. Therefore, I have completely cut out sugar from my diet. I use artificial sweeteners in my tea and coffee and buy only sugar-free snacks.

Artificial sweeteners are not a magic cure for obesity. Sugar-free snacks also contain calories from fats and carbohydrates. It is better to have a regular diet eating around 75 per cent of what you eat now and exercising aerobically for 30-40 minutes daily.

Morning giddiness

I feel giddy when I get up in the morning and once, I almost fell down. I am quite nervous now.

When you get up from lying down, the blood rushes to your legs because of gravity. The sensors in the blood vessels become less efficient with age, so this does not immediately correct itself. The blood supply to the brain is temporarily reduced, causing the feeling of giddiness. To prevent this, turn to one side in bed, then place both your legs on the ground before getting up. Don’t get up suddenly

Exercise time

I want to exercise every day. I try in the evenings, but it is late and dark when I get back from work. I am also hungry and exhausted.

Many people find that it suits them to get up a little earlier every day to exercise. That way, finishing your exercise in the morning is often possible. The workout is completed, and you feel rejuvenated. There is no guilt when you retire for the night from not completing your workout.

Incorporate stretching and a few minutes of deep breathing. As you concentrate on slow deep breaths, your levels of stress and the hormone (cortisol) which causes it will reduce. This will also tackle anxiety, body pain, blood pressure and insomnia.

The writer has a family practice at Vellore and is the author of Staying Healthy in Modern India. If you have any questions on health issues, please write to

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