Is Caffeine good or bad for you?

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Is caffeine bad for you, or can it be good for you?

Caffeine doesn’t just come from coffee. It also exists in tea, some fizzy drinks, chocolate and even some medicines.

This article aims to help you understand and clear up the various caffeine myths from the facts!

Caffeine is highly addictive

This statement has some truth to it. This of course depends on what you mean by the word “addictive.” Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system. Therefore regular use of caffeine can cause mild physical dependence. But caffeine doesn’t threaten your physical, social, or economic health the way actual addictive drugs do.

If you were to one day stop consuming caffeine abruptly, you may have symptoms for a day or so. This would especially be the case if you consume two or more cups of coffee (or through other means) a day. Common withdrawal symptoms from caffeine can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness and restlessness
  • Depressed mood
  • Stomach irritation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased heart rate and respiration
  • Headache
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

Although caffeine withdrawal can make you feel off for a few days, it does not cause the same level of side effects of withdrawal as drugs or alcohol. For this reason, most health experts wouldn’t consider caffeine dependence an actual addiction.

Caffeine can cause insomnia

Your body absorbs caffeine fairly quickly. However it also gets rid of it quickly too. Caffeine is mainly processed through the liver and has a relatively short half-life. By this we mean it takes about four to five hours, roughly, to eliminate half of it from your body completely. After between eight to ten hours, around 75% of the caffeine is gone. For most, a cup of coffee or two in the morning wouldn’t interfere with sleep at night time.

However consuming caffeine later in the day can interfere with your sleep. Most people won’t be affected if they don’t have caffeine within six hours before going to bed. Your sensitivity may vary depending on things like your metabolism and the amount of caffeine you consume and how often etc. Those few people that are more sensitive may not only experience insomnia and sleep issues but also have caffeine side effects of nervousness and belly/stomach upset.

Caffeine Infographic

Source: Food Insight

Caffeine definitely increases the risk of conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer

Moderate amounts of caffeine (about 300 milligrams, or in other words three cups of coffee) apparently cause no harmful effects to most healthy adults. However some people are more vulnerable to its effects. These people include those who have high blood pressure or are older etc. Let’s get into the facts:

Osteoporosis and caffeine.

Having high levels of caffeine (more than 744 milligrams a day) may increase calcium and magnesium loss in your urine. But recent studies suggest that caffeine does not increase your risk of bone loss, especially if you get enough calcium. You can offset the calcium lost by drinking one cup of coffee simply by adding around two tablespoons of milk.

That being said, there is research that shows some links between caffeine and hip fracture risk to the older generation of adults. The older generation of adults may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine in regards to calcium metabolism. If you’re an older woman, be sure to discuss with your doctor whether or not you should limit your daily caffeine intake to 300 milligrams or less.

Cardiovascular disease and caffeine.

A slight and temporary rise in the heart rate and blood pressure is quite common in those who are sensitive to caffeine. But several studies do not tie caffeine to higher cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, or an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. If you already have a high blood pressure, have a discussion with your doctor in regards to your caffeine intake. You may be a lot more sensitive to its effects.

Cancer and caffeine.

Reviews of around 13 studies involving over 20,000 people revealed that there is no significant relationship between cancer risk and caffeine. Actually, caffeine may even have a protective effect against specific cancers.

The Effects of Caffeine

Caffeine is harmful for women trying to get pregnant

Many studies show no tie between low amounts of caffeine (roughly a cup of coffee per day) and any of the following:

  • Miscarriages
  • Low birth baby weight
  • Issues conceiving
  • Birth defects
  • Premature birth

At the same time, for pregnant women or those planning to get pregnant, experts suggest limiting daily caffeine intake to no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day. That’s mainly because in many studies, women consuming higher levels of caffeine had an increased risk of miscarriage and low birth weight.

Caffeine has a dehydrating effect

Generally caffeine can make you need to urinate. However, the liquid you consume in caffeinated drinks tends to offset the effects of fluid loss when you urinate. Ultimately although caffeine does mildly make you need to urinate, studies show drinking caffeinated drinks doesn’t actually cause dehydration.

Caffeine harms young children

Energy drinks that contain caffeine are becoming increasingly popular these days.

Studies suggest that around 300 milligrams of caffeine daily is safe for children. Many children are quite sensitive to caffeine. This could lead to the development of temporary anxiety or irritability. In addition, most caffeine that children consume is in fizzy drinks or energy drinks, which may have high sugar content and make children crave more sweet stuff. These empty calories put children at higher risk of obesity which is becoming more common these days.

Even though caffeine itself isn’t harmful, caffeinated beverages are generally not good for children, especially younger children.

Caffeine can help you sober up

Research suggests that people only think caffeine helps them sober up from drinking alcohol. For example, those who drink strong coffee after alcohol may think they’re OK to drive. But the truth is reaction time and judgement are still impaired regardless of how much caffeine has been consumed.

Caffeine has no health benefits

Caffeine has several proven health benefits. Any regular coffee drinker may tell you that caffeine increases energy, concentration, alertness, clear-headedness, and feelings of sociability. Scientific studies support these findings. One study even showed a slower decline in cognitive ability among women who regularly consume caffeine.

Other potential benefits include, improved immune function from caffeine’s anti-inflammatory effects and help with allergic reactions. Interestingly, caffeine helps to reduce concentrations of histamines. Many people with asthma also seem to benefit from caffeine.

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