Benefits and Disadvantages of Caffeine Intake

Benefits and Disadvantages of Caffeine Intake

Posted by Marty Johnson on Aug 23rd 2016

What are mornings without a cup of coffee? Many of us may feel that we could not function the way we should be without taking that cup in the morning. It helps us to experience that great feeling of having a good start every day.

In this article, we will get to understand more about caffeine, the primary active ingredient in coffee, and how this compound affects human health.

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is chemically known as 1,3,7-trimrthylxanthine. Like some of the most common drugs taken by humans, caffeine can affect the body’s system in various ways, which can be either desirable or undesirable.

Because of the popularity of coffee and other similar food products, caffeine has become arguably the most popular drug in the world. It can be found in tea leaves, cacao pod, coffee beans and kola nut. People from all over the world consume caffeine regularly in the form of coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate and soft drinks. It was only in the early 1800’s that caffeine was chemically isolated.

Caffeine is a natural stimulant, which is why most people take caffeine to keep them alert all throughout the day. However, it should be noted that caffeine should not be a replacement for sleep because lacking enough rest can lead to serious health issues.

Caffeine is mildly addictive, and that is probably one of the reasons why companies would make products with caffeine as one of the ingredients. There is no nutritional value found in caffeine.

Many health experts recommend a maximum of three cups of coffee to be consumed in a day. More than three cups may lead to sleeplessness. Studies have shown that there is a possibility for dependence.Caffeine-dependent individuals may experience headache, muscle pain and fatigue once the dependence is arrested.

Since it has been proven that caffeine has no nutritional value, it is also not advised to be given to children because it can suppress their appetite.

List of Foods That Contains Caffeine

Some of the food products that we take on a regular basis naturally contain caffeine. Meanwhile, there are other foods that are made with caffeine with the intention to make it a source of energy to last the day, some of which include the following:

  • Coffee and tea
  • Soda and energy drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Energy/power bars
  • Weight-loss pills
  • Cold medications
  • Pain relievers
  • Breath fresheners

Do you know how much caffeine is in your cup? Ideally, 250 mg of caffeine is enough for one day. You may be surprised how much caffeine you are taking from your favorite coffee shops!

Coffee Serving Size Caffeine (mg)
Dunkin Donuts Coffee w/Turbo Shot Large, 20 fl. oz. 436
Starbucks Coffee Venti, 20 fl. oz. 415
Starbuck Coffee Grande, 16 fl. oz. 330
Panera Frozen Mocha 16.5 fl. oz. 267
McDonald’s Small, 12 oz. 109
Mc Donald’s Large, 21-24 oz. 180

Benefits of Caffeine

We may not find much nutritional value in caffeine, but somehow it helps us in some other ways without us realizing it. Caffeine has the ability to do the following:

  • Increases the effect of pain killers
  • Increases metabolism by breaking down fats
  • Increases muscle strength
  • Benefits people who have high risk of liver diseases
  • Reduces asthma symptoms

Based on recent studies, there are other beneficial uses of caffeine, dramatically changing how people see it as just an ordinary morning stimulant.

  • Gallstone Prevention: About 25 percent of people who consume 4 cups of coffee in a day have lower risk of having gallstones.
  • Depression Prevention: Women who consumed 2 to 3 cups of coffee are 15 percent less likely to develop depression.
  • Improvement in Memory: Women aged 65 and above who drank three cups of coffee a day performed better on memory tests than those who downed only one cup in a day.
  • Decreased Risk for Diabetes: A study discovered the ability of coffee compounds to block the polypeptides that cause abnormal protein fibers found in patients with Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Decreased Risk for Cancer: It was found out that caffeine causes a delay in onset of breast cancer. It may be unusual though to consume five or more cups in a day to decrease the risk, as excessive intake of caffeine may also have undesirable effects.
  • Boost in Metabolism: Some studies have shown that drinking coffee can actually help lose weight as caffeine enhances a person’s metabolism.
  • Decreased Risk for Parkinson’s Disease: Studies have shown that drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee daily produces 25 percent less chances of developing the disease.

Disadvantages of Caffeine

Caffeine intake may be helpful in terms of staying alert. However, taking more than 500 mg of caffeine in one day may lead to restlessness, upset stomach, palpitations, irritability, muscle tremors and nervousness. The most frightening symptom of excessive caffeine is insomnia and fatigue, which could eventually take its toll on health.

Individuals who may be sensitive to caffeine are prone to acid reflux, high blood pressure, frequent headaches, and an irregular heartbeat.

Excessive caffeine intake may also affect fertility as it reduces muscle activity in a woman’s tubes. A 2011 study by the British Journal of Pharmacology was featured in livestrong.com, which said that “caffeine also can increase pregnancy complications because it crosses the placenta and reaches the fetus. Because the fetus has an immature metabolism, caffeine may linger in its system and build up to toxic levels.” Therefore, caffeine increases the risk of miscarriage and a low birth weight of newborn babies.

There is a high possibility of caffeine dependence. In a study, it was found out that regular caffeine drinkers take in an average of 357 mg a day. Psychological and physical problems may eventually occur. Withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, depression and irritability may also happen.

How Caffeine Affects Blood Circulation

Caffeine helps stimulate the central nervous system, which is why some medications used to prevent drowsiness have caffeine to increase alertness and help boost energy.

Consuming caffeine increases heart rate. As a result, some doctors would often recommend patients with cardiovascular conditions to regulate coffee intake to 1-2 cups a day.

Caffeine and the Digestive System

Caffeine reaches its peak level within an hour of consumption and can stay at its peak level for up to six hours.

Its effect on the digestive system may be surprising for some. Caffeine can act as a laxative and can help increase peristalsis. The latter involves the movement of food by muscle contraction through the digestive system. For this reason, coffee is the drink of choice in the morning to aid in bowel movement.

Ironically, caffeine can also cause an increase in stress hormones, which may lead to indigestion. When your heart beats faster (on stressful situations), it decreases the blood supply to the intestines, thereby causing this condition.

Caffeine and the Nervous System

Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine. From there it quickly passes through the blood-brain barrier. Caffeine then interferes with the actions of adenosine. Adenosine suppresses the neural activity in the brain, increases blood flow throughout the body and contributes to energy metabolism.

As adenosine is being suppressed, caffeine acts on the neural activity of the brain, which then leads to an increase in mental alertness while reducing drowsiness and fatigue.

Caffeine and Your Appetite

Caffeine does not completely suppress your appetite. It just somehow enhances the fat oxidation, which consequently reduces fatigue and provides more energy. Since caffeine has diuretic effects, you may lose some water weight, but it can only be temporary.

Caffeine and Sleep

As a stimulant, caffeine can affect the quality of your sleep depending on the amount of caffeine that you consume in a day. About 250 mg or 2-3 cups of coffee in a day is considered safe and healthy so as not to cause any disruption in sleep. Drinking more than 4 cups in a day may trigger restlessness, palpitations, irritability, anxiety, headache and stress.

A drastic change in sleeping hours may not be healthy. Many people tend to be more awake at night than during the day. To help achieve better sleep, here are some suggestions:

  • Maintain a regular sleeping and waking up schedule.
  • Establish a relaxing environment prior to sleeping at night.
  • Stay in a quiet and comfortable room.
  • Comfortable pillows and mattress aid in better, restful sleep.
  • Do not place a television inside your bedroom.
  • Do not eat at least 2-3 hours before you plan to sleep.
  • Make it a habit to exercise regularly, but not before bedtime.
  • Try to avoid taking in any form of caffeine (coffee, tea, soft drinks).
  • Do not consume alcohol right before sleeping

Caffeine Alternatives

Caffeine dependence is a definite possibility for any person who drinks coffee and other caffeine-based products. To prevent such condition, there is a need to lessen the amount of caffeine intake.

What could be more helpful is to find an alternative way to get the same amount of energy that you want without having to take in caffeine. Here are a few suggestions as perk-me-uppers:

Eat a healthy breakfast

Some health and nutrition experts say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Try to eat a balanced diet in order to keep you healthy, strong and alert all the time.

Eat healthy snacks

We may have been used to eating chips and soda or pastries for snacks. While we think that we get the feeling of being fully satisfied with these foods, think again! These food products contain a lot of sugar, which can only provide you with “temporary energy”.

Instead of munching on artificial sweets for snacks, substitute it with fruits, grain crackers, or yogurt.

Get moving

Being in one place the whole day may make you feel bored and sluggish. Make your day productive and be able to do the things that need to be done by making exercise part of your daily routine. Sometimes, physical activity is just what we need to make ourselves feel “alive” again.

Cut on Fat

Consuming too much fat in your diet can make you feel sleepy and tired. Instead of grabbing fried chicken, choose to eat vegetables and fish. If you think that you can’t live the day without meat, at least just eat the lean part.

Conclusion

Caffeine has become a part of our daily lives, and it may be impossible to totally stay away from it most especially because there are so many food products in the market that contain caffeine.

Caffeine is not necessarily bad for health unless we consume it more than necessary. The best way to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to take in only the necessary amount of substances to ensure that we protect ourselves from health issues.