For many, caffeine is taken regularly on a daily basis. Most people won’t start a day without a cup of
caffeine coffee, but do you know what it might be doing to your body and how it affects your health? This article will have a look at what caffeine does to you, and determine if caffeine good for you.
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a xanthine alkaloid which is found in the leaves, fruit and seeds of a number of plants. It acts as a natural pesticide to insects which may eat the plant, and rewards the memory system of pollinators of the plant. Humans have been consuming it from tea leaves or coffee beans for many years as it acts as a stimulant for the nervous system and helps to alleviate the feeling of sleepiness or drowsiness. From the time it is consumed it takes up 45 minuets to be absorbed by the gut and its effects to be noticed, but this can vary from person to person.
Caffeine & your brain
Caffeine inhibits the neurotransmitter adenosine, the effect of which is to make us tired or sleepy. By inhibiting adenosine caffeine can reduce its effect and make us feel more awake. Caffeine can also increase the level of other neurotransmitters such as dopamine, acetylcholine and serotonin. By increasing dopamine in the brain caffeine can improve our mood and protect brain cells against neurodegeneration. This may also offer protection against degenerative diseases such as alzheimers. Acetylcholine is released in the brain in recognition of a reward, and so as caffeine increases the levels of acetylcholine in the brain it can further improve our mood.
Acetylcholine is also associated with neuroprotective properties similar to dopamine. By increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, caffeine can help a person to feel more relaxed, alert and alleviate depression. This shows that caffeine can have beneficial effects on the brain, but if caffeine is consumed in large quantities regularly, the body may stop being able to produce these neurotransmitters in sufficient quantities without caffeine present, which can result in caffeine dependency.
It may seem like because caffeine stimulate the brain and prevents drowsiness, it is good to drink before a workout, as it can help you focus. Whilst this is the case, caffeine can also have negative effects on your workout as it raises cortisol, so it might not be good to make a habit of it.
Physical Effects Of Caffeine
Caffeine can increase blood pressure but only in people who are not regular caffeine consumers. This effect is very short term, and there is no evidence to suggest that it poses a risk to people with already high blood pressure. People who regularly consume caffeine will notice very little or no changes in blood pressure after consuming it. Caffeine can cause ‘the jitters’ which is characterised by slight shaking of hands. Although this is unpleasant it poses no risk to your health, but it is a sign that you have had enough caffeine for your body.
‘The jitters’, or shaking may be caused by caffeines ability to raise your metabolism, and it is because of this caffeine is often said to aid with weight loss. Green tea behaves in much the same way in raising your metabolism, but this isn’t because of its caffeine content. Whilst raising your metabolism will burn more calories, the amount is relatively small, and so although it will help with weight loss, its effects will be hard to notice. Caffeine is also a natural diuretic meaning that it increases the amount of urine the body produces, or rather, the amount of water which goes into your urine. This means that tea and coffee are not as hydrating as water alone, and large quantities of caffeine can cause dehydration.
Caffeine & Disease
Caffeine has been very extensively studied, and it has shown significant preventative properties to a number of diseases. Drinking more than 3 cups of coffee a day has shown to protect the body against type 2 diabetes. However, for people already suffering from diabetes caffeine has shown to have negative effects, which may stem from its ability to raise our metabolism. Caffeine consumption is also associated with a lower risk of many types of cancer, and has shown to be most effective at preventing hepatocellular and endometrial cancer, but also has a modest effect on colorectal cancer. Caffeine is also a strong antioxidant, which allows it to help protect the body from oxidative stress.
Caffeine Addiction & Negative Effects
Caffeine addiction or dependence occurs when a person has been consuming large amounts for a long period of time and their body becomes accustomed to its presence, and symptoms include poor sleep and anxiety. When caffeine is removed from the diet withdrawal symptoms can include vomiting, muscle pain and nausea, and can last up to 9 days. Caffeine dependence can occur from regularly consuming as little as 100mg of caffeine a day, however, this can vary dramatically from person to person, depending of their weight, age and gender. There is also evidence that caffeine (especially large dosages) can increase anxiety and nervousness in people. None of these negative effects are long term, and once caffeine has been eliminated from the diet the negative effects should fade, so its nothing to worry about.
Caffeine Content Of Drinks
Bellow are typical values of the caffeine content of common sources of dietary caffeine, values are taken as an average and may vary slightly.
|Mug Of Instant Coffee||100mg|
|Mug Of Filter Coffee||140mg|
|Mug Of Tea||75mg|
|Can Of Cola||40mg|
Caffeine is effective at stimulating the nervous system and reducing the feeling of fatigue and tiredness. It has has a number of benefits on the body and can protect against a number of diseases from Alzhimers to types of cancer and diabetes. Caffeine should only be consumed in moderation though, as caffeine dependence or addiction can occur which has negative effects on our health. To try and prevent any caffeine dependence avoid having coffee for one or two days in a week. Although as a whole caffeine consumption looks good pretty healthy in moderation, it can have different effects on kids, and so isn’t necessarily healthy for kids to drink coffee.