Caffeine – good or bad for you?

14 May

caffeine

 

As we all know, caffeine is a stimulant and a drug and we are all warned that if we consume too much of it, we are at risk of addiction and the associated health problems. However, the reason most of us are confused at how much we are supposed to have is because there are contradicting articles telling you that caffeine will help lower your chance of getting cancer and suffering from heart disease etc. Too much information leads us to huge confusion and so I am attempting to simplify some of the information out there about caffeine and the effects it has on your health – both the good and the bad.

 

  • Caffeine can be a mood booster. It stimulates the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine which activates the area of your brain responsible for productivity and alertness. The amount it may boost your mood and the time it lasts for depends on the amount of sugar consumed with the caffeine. For example, if your put a lot of sugar in your coffee, your mood may be boosted a fair amount however once your blood sugar level drops down again, you will notice a pretty sudden decrease in alertness and productivity!
  • Coffee has been proven to help lower the risk of oral cancer. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that there is a strong connection between the increased caffeinated coffee consumption and the lower death rate from oral cancer. Research is ongoing on this topic.
  • Having too much of anything is a bad move and it is no different with caffeine. Too much of it can cause nervousness, “the shakes”, insomnia, irritability, upset stomach, muscle tremors and irregular heart beats. Everyone will have a different tolerance so the amount of caffeine that works for your body will be individual to you but any more than 500mg (equal to 4 cups of coffee) can produce these effects on most people, especially if you are not used to taking in this much caffeine.
  • A healthy individual should try to remain under 300mg of caffeine a day which equals around 3 cups of coffee or 4 cups of tea. Pregnant women should limit their intake to under 200mg and children should consume no more than 50mg daily. Remember caffeine isn’t only in coffee and tea, it is also in sugary energy drinks that you may give your children.
  • Caffeine may NOT help weight loss!! Although many people use the zero-calorie coffee as a diet aid, research has not confirmed that it helps with weight loss. Caffeine does temporarily speed up metabolism leading to a few more calories being burned, however it also leads to the production of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone which is linked to weight gain and of course stress!! Research has also shown that the extra calories burned does not equate to an amount that will drastically help with weight loss.
  • Be careful which source of caffeine you choose! Health professionals always prefer you the get your caffeine fix from a natural source such as coffee or tea. Energy drinks are design to give you a quick boost of energy, and generally do just that, however the amount of sugar that is added to them can add up to about 70g. That is the equivalent to 17 teaspoons of sugar. These energy drinks can be dangerous to consume because as well as the huge amounts of caffeine and sugar in them, there are additives and stimulants that are thrown in there as well. These can cause the shakes, anxiety, irregular heart beat and also decrease the effect of any prescription drugs or antibiotics being taken.
  • Caffeine is used by athletes for exercise benefits. When caffeine is consumed in a fasted state, it stimulates the release of fatty acids into the blood therefore making it the preferable source of energy over carbohydrates or lean muscle.

The list of positive and negative effects that coffee has on our health is ongoing and there is no way I could talk about it all today but I hope those couple of facts have perhaps taught you something new, or cleared up something you weren’t quite sure on. We do not have a clear cut answer to the question in my title, the answer is that in moderation there should be no problem but you have to find the right amount for you as an individual!

Enjoy your day, stay healthy, stay active and … watch that caffeine intake!

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