For many people, one of the most important parts of their daily routine is their morning cup of coffee or tea. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day worldwide. People rely on the burst of energy and increased alertness that these delicious beverages provide, but in reality, it’s the caffeine content that gives consumers the buzz they crave. However, many wonder if all this caffeine could be harming our health in the process.
Caffeine itself is a natural stimulant that can be derived from more than 60 different plants, including beans, leaves, and fruits. Current research supports that consuming a “moderate” amount of caffeine generally is safe for your overall health.
For a typical adult, “moderate” translates into roughly 400mg per day. However, this amount can vary greatly depending on your individual age, body composition, etc. In general, one cup of coffee has about 100mg of caffeine. So, for most healthy adults three to four cups of coffee per day is okay.
Several studies have shown caffeine has many positive effects. In moderate amounts, caffeine can improve brain function, boost long-term memory and potentially even protect the body against health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and cardiovascular disease. Research still is somewhat inconclusive, though, as the evidence is on both ends of the spectrum. Caffeine is also a natural diuretic, which means it can cause excessive urination. Some people use caffeine for its mild appetite-suppressing properties.
If you consume more than a moderate amount of caffeine on a daily basis, there may be some fairly serious health risks. Depending on the individual, amounts higher than even 300mg can cause an increased heart rate as well as trouble sleeping. Even if you cut off your caffeine intake by 3 p.m., chances are it will affect you well into the evening. Additional negative effects of caffeine can include migraines, mood swings, upset stomach, and even muscle tremors.
People who consume large amounts of caffeine also can be at greater risk for bone fractures. This is because excessive, long-term caffeine use can negatively impact bone health. Bone density can decrease, which is what causes bone fractures and breaks. If you consume large amounts of caffeine on a regular basis, make sure your calcium intake is sufficient.
Because caffeine tends to affect every individual differently, there is a lot of conflicting research when it comes to its effect on our health. Some people don’t feel anything after a cup of coffee, while others are affected for several hours. This has to do with how fast your body metabolizes the caffeine.
For example, people who smoke cigarettes metabolize caffeine twice as fast as non-smokers. Young children metabolize caffeine more slowly, which is why it’s recommended to limit adolescent caffeine intake. In infants, the half-life of caffeine can be upwards of 30 hours or more. Other factors, such as alcohol consumption, can affect caffeine’s half-life as well.
In addition, individuals with health conditions can have different responses to caffeine. People suffering from anxiety disorders often experience increased anxious behavior and feelings. Those with hypertension typically are advised against excessive caffeine intake as well. This is because caffeine increases blood pressure. Research suggests that caffeine may be harmful to individuals with Type 2 diabetes as well. One study found that caffeine actually impairs the metabolism of glucose.
Since caffeine is a stimulant, which makes it a drug, an addiction to the substance is possible. Along with addiction can come withdrawal after discontinuing or limiting use. Withdrawal symptoms typically are fairly mild, such as headaches, fatigue, irritability, and mood swings. Some people experience more severe symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting.
Overall, when consumed in moderate amounts, caffeine is a relatively safe substance. As always, you should listen to your body and watch for signs of dependence. If you start experiencing any negative effects, consider decreasing your caffeine intake or eliminating it from your diet altogether.