For billions of people around the world, caffeine helps them wake up and get them through the day. Some people cannot even converse with others before a cup of coffee. Others consume way too much and have difficulty falling asleep and can’t stop the “jitters.” If you rely on caffeine to keep you alert and maintain focus, there may be a problem you need to address.
What Is Caffeine?
As a natural stimulant, caffeine has a primary effect on the brain and central nervous system. You can find caffeine in tea leaves, cacao plants, and coffee beans, but manufacturers also add it to energy drinks, sodas, and more. According to a recent report, about 80% of the world’s adult population drinks at least one caffeinated product every single day. For adults in the United states, that number increases to 90%.
How Does Caffeine Work?
When you drink a caffeinated beverage, the gut quickly absorbs the caffeine and it enters the bloodstream. It then travels to the liver, where it gets broken down into compounds. The reason you feel a jolt of energy is because caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that relaxes the brain. Adenosine levels build up throughout the day, which is why you feel tired at the end of the day. People keep them at bay by drinking more caffeine, which can unfortunately cause sleep troubles. Caffeine can also increase adrenaline levels in the blood and neurotransmitter activity in the brain. These efforts are often short-lived, for example, the effects of one cup of coffee may only last 20 minutes.
How Much Is Too Much?
Do you drink more than four cups of coffee per day? If you answered “yes” to that question, you consume too much caffeine and may want to consider cutting back. The side effects of excessive caffeine consumption include nervousness, irritability, headaches, accelerated heartbeat, muscle twitching, and insomnia. Four cups of coffee exceeds 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, which is the equivalent of 2 energy shots or 10 cans of soda.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises that caffeine in powder or liquid form can form toxic levels of caffeine. One teaspoon of powdered caffeine equates to 28 cups of coffee. This can cause serious health problems, and death in the worst cases. For children and adolescents, caffeine may not be safe for their health. Additionally, caffeine can prove dangerous for pregnant women, or women who are trying to conceive.
Is Caffeine Healthy?
According to a 2019 review of literature on caffeine, consuming a moderate amount may help prevent liver damage. A different review of studies in that same year found that drinking 2-4 cups of coffee per day reduced the risk of death from all causes. Another research study found that moderate caffeine consumption may improve long-term memory. Finally, one review found that people who drank coffee reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 29%.
As we mentioned earlier, caffeine stimulates the central nervous system. In doing so, caffeine may be able to increase metabolism by 11%, and fat burning by up to 13%. What does this mean from a caloric standpoint? If you drink 300 mg of caffeine per day, you can burn an extra 79 calories daily. A 12-year study found that people who drank coffee daily were about 0.8-1.1 pounds lighter at the end of the study.
Is Caffeine Safe?
Generally speaking, caffeine is safe to consume in moderate amounts. It is habit forming and drinking caffeine in excess can lead to abnormal heartbeat, sleeping troubles, and tremors. In certain cases, caffeine can also lead to elevated blood pressure levels. It’s also possible to form too much acid in the body, getting in the way of optimal alkaline levels. One meta-analysis, which included 233,617 participants, found that drinking 3-4 cups of coffee per day may increase the risk of heart attack in men, but not women. More research is necessary to confirm whether or not long-term caffeine consumption presents health problems.
The takeaway from all of this information is that caffeine, when consumed in moderation, may not produce harmful side effects. Like most things, consuming excessive amounts can lead to health problems. Additionally, other factors like added sugars, preservatives, dairy products, antibiotics, and creamers all play a role in negatively affecting one’s health.