COMMON FORMS: coffee. (100-180 mg per cup); instant coffee (70-177 mg per cup); tea (50-70 mg per cup); cocoa (50 mg per cup); cola and diet cola drinks (25-3? mg per 12-ounce can); compound headache tablets (15-30 mg per tablet); No-Doz tablets and similar brands (100 mg), chocolate (25 mg per small bar)

Feeling nervous? Irritable? Not sleeping well? Suffering from pounding headaches .or stomachache? Don't despair. The problem might be -a lot simpler to solve than you think. Just pause for a moment to add up the amount of caffeine you are consuming (the above table will be a help).   _

If, when you add up those cups of coffee, tea, cocoa, and cola, along with those couple of aspirin, you. come up with -a total exceeding 250 mg per day (considered -to be a large amount), watch out! You could be heading for serious problems.

Caffeine-has become pact of the American way of life. In fact, 'half the world's entire coffee supply is consumed by people in the United States, to the tune of some 16 pounds per year per person.

Think about it. Maybe you start the day out with a cup of -' coffee for breakfast. That's 1Wing. You get to the office and have a cup from the office-percolator. You're up to 200 mg You lay off -until lunchtime, when you have a cola drink to wash down your sandwich, then two cups of coffee with dessert to brace' yourself for what promises to be a dull afternoon's work. You're now up to over 500 mg. In mid afternoon you take a coffee break (almost a contractual obligation for most of the working population) and add another 100 mg. Dinner wouldn't seem complete without a couple of cups of coffee, bringing the sum to at least 800 mg for the day. Wow! You've just consumed a lot of something ... something called caffeine

Caffeine, a member of the xanthine family, is a cheap, legal drug that comes from natural plant sources such as coffee beans and kola nuts. It acts as -a powerful central-nervoussystem stimulant, with first effects generally appearing thirty to sixty minutes after ingestion.

Used in moderation; beverages containing caffeine can offer some pleasant breaks in the day and can even have some rewarding benefits. Caffeine has a direct effect on the brain. As late-night drivers and exam-crammers have discovered,. reasonable quantities can rapidly sharpen the senses, minimize drowsiness and fatigue, provide. quick energy, im prove muscular and mental efforts, and provide a high level of clarity and alertness.

High doses of caffeine can produce symptoms that are virtually identical to those found in people suffering from anxiety neurosis. These can include nervousness, lethargy, insomnia, irritability, pounding headaches, dizziness, trembling limbs, high blood pressure, elevated pulse, lightheadedness, breathlessness, and digestive disorders. Such symptoms may temporarily occur with more frequency in weakened or nervous adults as well as in children when they consume quantities of caffeine. So, you might want to skip Junior's . extra cup of cocoa before bedtime. And you might want to watch those chocolate bars he' keeps popping down. Each "small" one contains 23 mg of caffeine. A child's body weight is far less than that of an adult, thus the amount of caffeine he consumes may easily be excessive.

Excessively high doses can cause more serious problems: cardiovascular reactions such as rapid and/or irregular heartbeat,. circulation difficulties, palpitations, flushing, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. If you are consuming more than five cups of coffee per day, some studies have indicated you may have twice the chance of experiencing myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) than those of us who drink no coffee at all. Over indulgers take years off their lives. If you suffer from gout or ulcers, the consumption of caffeine can, promise you additional discomfort.

"But I like my coffee!" you are probably thinking (not to mention Cokes, cocoa; and tee). Sure you -do: If you drink excessive quantity you're probably a caffeine addict, for the drug is -mildly habit forming. Stopping "cold turkey" will result in withdrawal symptoms in about twelve to sixteen hours: irritability, headache, and restlessness - all signs of physical dependence.

Never fear. "Cold turkey" doesn't have to be the route for coping with caffeine excess. Cut down slowly over a period of days to allow your body to adjust comfortably without excessive .shock: You'll find it an, easy transition. Consider ordering decaffeinated coffee the next time you feel like having a cup. Coax whoever is in charge of the coffee pot in the office and at home to use decaffeinated coffee. It tastes almost as good. When it comes to aspirin-compound headache tablets, look for brands that do not contain caffeine (most do). It doesn't make sense to try to cure a headache with something that causes one.   

If you are a heavy tea drinker, cut down to a reasonable level and find substitute beverages. Add a bit of milk or cream to your tea to cut the tannic-acid content. Your stomach will certainly thank you for it.

Cola freaks: dust cut down, period! It's not just the caffeine. Your body will appreciate the reduced consumption of sugar, too. Moderate use of caffeine is harmless for most people. Just don't overdo.