The Real Effects of Caffeine on the Body

coffee and cocoa beans

The coffee industry is worth $100 billion worldwide right now

And if you are part of the 80% of adults who drink coffee regularly, it’s time to chat about what this little bean is really doing to your body. While coffee is the most common source of caffeine, it is definitely not the only way we find an energy boost. If coffee isn’t your drink of choice you might be ingesting this common stimulant through chocolate, soda, tea, or even painkillers.

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in over 60 different plant sources around the world. Extensive studies have been done on the use of caffeine and have found that depending on your genetic make-up, effects can start within 15 minutes of consumption and last up to six hours. That’s bad news for anyone who expects to sleep well after a late afternoon cup of coffee.

What are the Benefits?

Over 1.5 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide each and every day. The good news is that drinking a cup of coffee or two to kick-start your morning isn’t really that bad. For most healthy adults, a daily dose of up to 400 milligrams of caffeine doesn’t pose any health risks. How much is 400 milligrams? It’s roughly four small (5-ounce) cups of coffee – or upwards of 10 cups of tea.

While most commonly used to increase energy, alertness, and improve concentration, there are several other benefits to this natural plant-based stimulant. Caffeine has been shown to improve brain health, boost long-term memory, and even reduce the risk of suicide in adults. Studies are also showing that caffeine may play a role in preventing Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and type 2 diabetes.

For those who suffer from migraines, caffeine often greatly reduces pain levels. Some hospitals even give caffeine in tiny doses to pre-term infants to help stimulate brain and lung functionality.

What are the Downfalls?

With that long list of benefits, it’s easy to forget that caffeine is still a drug and each of us is affected differently. Your genetic makeup plays a big part in how your body tolerates and responds to caffeine and unfortunately, addiction is one of the most common issues surrounding this stimulant. While caffeine may reduce headaches, caffeine withdrawal also commonly causes headaches and leads to increased irritability. Other negative effects include insomnia, upset stomach, and increased levels of anxiety. It is an addictive substance and should absolutely be avoided by children and adolescents.

A common claim that seems to hold little weight revolves around bone health and calcium. While studies do show that caffeine slightly reduces calcium absorption, it has not been proven that your morning cup (or two) of joe will negatively impact bone health. What does hold true is the need to avoid caffeine while pregnant? Caffeine increases heart rate and blood pressure and does cross the placenta which will affect your baby’s sleep patterns.

Here Are A Few Additional Caffeine Truths to be Aware of:

  • Decaf coffee contains small amounts of caffeine
  • Not all root beer is caffeine-free
  • The darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine count
  • Even some breath fresheners, painkillers, and weight loss pills contain caffeine

In general, caffeine is not bad for you in small quantities

Pay attention to how your body reacts to this naturally-found stimulant and be aware of any side effects you may be feeling. Be wary of the addictive properties of caffeine and stay away from the drug within six hours of falling asleep.

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*Previously published on December 16, 2018

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