Caffeine – Is it Good or Bad for your Health?
If you rely on a hot cup of coffee to kick start your day every morning, you aren’t alone. For many of us, happiness comes in a hot coffee mug. Besides tea and wine, people put their love for caffeine in the sincerest love category.
According to International Coffee Organization (ICO), about 1.4 billion cups of coffee are poured around the world in a day. That pretty much explains why caffeine is labeled as an addiction. However, it is also loved for its ability to boost energy, mood, concentration, alertness, and athletic performance.
Caffeine is present in your coffee, of course as well as tea, soda, colas, and energy drinks. It definitely gives you an instant kick that’s how it has got billions of people hooked on to it for years.
But have you ever wondered how does all that caffeine affects your health? Is it good or bad? Or how much is too much — is there a limit? While caffeine can give you a temporary mental boost (for some its is physical too — hello, gym lovers!), its impact on your health depends on its source and how much you consume.
Brewing a storm in a cup
Caffeine works as a stimulant. It enters the bloodstream and binds to adenosine receptors in the brain, which is a nervous system depressant that promotes sleep. So when caffeine binds to these receptors, adenosine is not able to work to its fullest. Basically, when it binds, it blocks adenosine from transmitting its signal, staving off sleepiness and fatigue. Instead, the body feels a sudden boost of energy and feels all awakened or alert.
The caffeine-effect lasts for several hours; depending on how quickly or slowly your body is able to metabolize it. This is why some people can get an instant kick from a small cup of coffee, while others can guzzle down several cups and feel nothing. According to experts, the more you consume, the better adjusted your body becomes to caffeine.
The reasons behind the caffeine cult are many. It helps improve moods, stimulate brain function, and may protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Caffeine has the ability to block the brain-signaling molecule adenosine. This pushes other signaling molecules such as dopamine and norepinephrine. This change is thought to benefit your mood and brain function.
The most famous and celebrated effect of caffeine is its ability to give an instant shot of energy. So how does caffeine manage to do that? The stimulant in caffeine helps boost mood, create high levels of alertness and reduce fatigue.
Many fitness enthusiasts trust a jolt of caffeine to pump up more weights at the gym, improve their athletic endurance, and reduce fatigue. Some gym regulars claim that consuming some amount of caffeine, preferably a cup of black coffee, before hitting the gym works as an energy booster.
Studies suggest that caffeine can help the glucose stored in muscles last longer, which potentially delays the time it takes for your muscles to reach exhaustion. The other advantages of caffeine include improving sports performance, brain function, and alertness. There is also research that supports caffeine consumption to improve erectile dysfunction.
Distancing you from your body
One of the major disadvantages of caffeine is that it causes a spike in cortisol (the stress hormone), which then interferes with the body’s production of melatonin (the rest hormone).
Thanks to deadlines, late nights, and nightshifts, our dependence on caffeine have only increased with time. A work deadline or night shift is a good excuse to drink a few more cups of coffee to beat stress as well as stay awake till late at night. As a result, people get quickly addicted to it, which is one of the many disadvantages of caffeine.
A regular trigger of cortisol release, caffeine keeps us in the “alert mode” even when the body needs to rest. By blocking adenosine, one of the body’s key sleep-inducing molecules, caffeine tricks the body into thinking it is not tired. Clearly, it disconnects you from your body and its needs.
Poor sleep is also considered one of the major disadvantages of caffeine. A single cup of coffee at the wrong time (evening or late in the night) is enough to mess with your sleep cycle, and keep your body in the “fight or flight” mode 24/7, which is also known to be a sign of low-level chronic stress.
Other disadvantages of caffeine include anxiety, restlessness, headaches, migraine, and high blood pressure. Pregnant women should be highly cautious of their caffeine intake as caffeine can easily cross the placenta, which can increase the risk of miscarriage or low birth weight.
One cup is never enough
If you have been thinking about whether caffeine is good for health or not, consider this — Caffeine also spikes dopamine levels in the body. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that activates the pleasure center of the brain.
When you sip on caffeine, you get a boost for the short term. But when the adrenaline and dopamine wear off, your body starts craving more caffeine to feel good, which results in you pouring another cup for yourself and locking your body in the “fight or flight” mode for the entire day and night.
Too much is not good
According to the American Heart Association Journal, high doses of caffeine can temporarily raise your heart rate and blood pressure, which may pose danger for people with heart disease.
If you are one of those who gulp down cans of caffeine drinks in order to feel ‘all-charged-up’, you have been doing more harm to your body than you can imagine. When it comes to caffeine drinks benefits, there are none.
Energy drinks that come loaded with caffeine and sugar in small servings are particularly bad. Regular use of caffeine for a prolonged amount of time can also cause the chemistry of your brain to change, as some researchers suggest.
It is believed that to compensate for the blocked adenosine, the brain may make even more receptors. Thus, with the greater amount of receptors, you have to drink even more caffeine to get the same stimulating effects as before. And this is why when you try to quit coffee, colas, or energy drinks, the sudden excess of unblocked receptors for adenosine to bind leads to tiredness, anxiety, or irritability. Obviously, it makes you crave for it all more.
The Bottom line
Wondering is caffeine good for your health or not? Your intake decides the impact of caffeine on your overall physical and mental health. It has been seen that consuming caffeine poses no serious health risk if taken within safe amounts.
According to Harvard Health Journal, your daily intake of caffeine should not cross the limit of 400 mg per day, which is about four cups of coffee or up to 10 cups of black tea.
The journal further adds that this amount is not linked to any long-term effect on blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke risk. However, if you are a heart patient and already had a heart attack, strictly limit your dosage to about half of the aforementioned amount per day.
The source of your caffeine is also of utmost importance. While coffee and tea are good as they also contain antioxidants, soft drinks and energy drinks should strictly be avoided. These often contain very high amounts of caffeine in a single serving and are full of sugar and other unhealthy additives. Children and teens should not be encouraged to consume sodas and energy drinks.
How to know that your caffeine love is turning into an addiction? If you find it hard to function without caffeine or if you develop headaches when you don’t drink caffeine, it may be time to cut the amount of caffeine from your daily diet. Nowadays, decaffeinated coffee and tea with adaptogens are gaining popularity as healthy and sustainable alternatives to caffeine.
Caffeine is more of dependence than an addiction. Enjoy it but don’t let your happiness depend on it.
Is caffeine good for you?
Both the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) advise limiting one’s daily intake of caffeine to 400-mg/per day.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, pregnant women should not let their daily intake of caffeine go beyond 200 mg.
Those who have had a heart attack or been diagnosed with heart ailments should keep the dosage of one or two cups of coffee.
Moreover, avoid adding too much cream and sugar to your coffee mugs, which add extra calories and fat. Watch out for other hidden sources of caffeine such as energy drinks, colas, sodas, etc. These often contain extremely high amounts of caffeine in a single serving and are full of sugar and other harmful additives.
Why is caffeine bad for you?
The answer to this question lies in the number of cups you have in a day and how you like to have your coffee. While moderate consumption of caffeine is unlikely to produce harmful effects in most people, reactions to caffeine stimulants depend on highly individual factors such as genetics and other lifestyle habits.
People should keep in mind that caffeine is a psychoactive substance. A 2015 review identified several unwanted side effects of consuming more than 400 mg of caffeine per day, such as restlessness, anxiety, sleep problems, agitation, and tremors. And these effects can also become more prevalent as caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
Is caffeine bad for your kidneys?
There is not enough evidence or research proving that the consumption of 3 to 4 cups of coffee has health benefits. But elderly, children, kidney patients, or people with a family/clinical history of lithiasis should not just limit their caffeine consumption but also balance it with an adequate fluid intake.
How do you flush caffeine out of your system?
If you have been a caffeine addict, flushing caffeine out of your system is not going to be a quick process. Caffeine effects are known to last for several hours and you may feel the jitters if you drank a lot of coffee or other caffeinated beverages.
Once it has entered your body, there is not much you can do to flush caffeine out immediately. The only way to get rid of it is to wait for it to naturally flush itself. You can, however, keep the body well hydrated by drinking plain or detox water with lemon and other fruits.
Another way to slow down the release of caffeine into your bloodstream is by including fiber-rich foods in your diet, such as whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and starchy vegetables.
How long does it take to detox from caffeine?
Usually, the stimulatory effects of caffeine are noticeable within the first 45 minutes of intake and can last up to 3–5 hours. In fact, it can take up to 10 hours for caffeine to completely clear your system. If you got trouble sleeping, it’s advisable to give up caffeine as it disrupts sleep or have it at least 6–8 hours before your sleep time.
What are some common foods that contain caffeine?
Common foods that contain caffeine include coffee, tea, sodas, colas, and energy drinks like Red Bull.
What does caffeine do to our system?
Caffeine is a stimulant. It enters the bloodstream and binds to adenosine receptors in the brain, which is a nervous system depressant that promotes sleep. When caffeine binds to these receptors, adenosine is not able to work to its fullest. When it binds, it blocks adenosine from transmitting its signal, staving off feelings of sleepiness and fatigue. Instead, the body feels a sudden boost of energy and feels all awakened or alert. The “caffeine effect” lasts for several hours; depending on how quickly or slowly your body is able to metabolise it. This is why some people can get an instant kick from a small cup of coffee, while others can guzzle down several cups and feel nothing. According to experts, the more you consume, the better adjusted your body becomes to caffeine.
What are the benefits of caffeine?
It helps improve moods, stimulate brain function, and may protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Caffeine has the ability to block the brain-signalling molecule adenosine. This pushes other signalling molecules such as dopamine and norepinephrine, thought to benefit your mood and brain function.
What are the ill effects of caffeine?
The major disadvantage of caffeine is that it causes a spike in cortisol (the stress hormone), which then interferes with the body’s production of melatonin (the rest hormone). With a regular trigger of cortisol release, caffeine keeps us in the “alert mode” even when the body needs to rest. By blocking adenosine, one of the body’s key sleep-inducing molecules, caffeine tricks the body into thinking it is not tired.
How much caffeine can one have in a day?
According to the Harvard Health Journal, an individual’s daily intake of caffeine should not cross the limit of 400 mg per day, which is about four cups of coffee or up to 10 cups of black tea.