Do a quick search into the pros and cons of caffeine, and you might come up with some conflicting information. It’s popular knowledge that caffeine is bad for health – but is it really? As research shows, the truth might be a whole lot more nuanced than expected.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in coffee and tea plants. It is also often included in energy drinks and soft drinks. When consumed, it is absorbed from the gut and passes into the bloodstream, where it goes on to affect major organs including the brain and central nervous system. These effects are complex and depend greatly on how much caffeine is consumed.
So, hold onto your morning cup of joe, and read on to discover whether caffeine is really good or bad for health.
1. Increased alertness
Caffeine works by blocking adenosine, a neurotransmitter that causes feelings of tiredness. This also has the effect of boosting the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, as well as adrenaline levels in the blood. Studies have linked caffeine use with improvements in brain functions like short-term recall, reaction time, and general alertness.
2. Boosted metabolism
Evidence shows that caffeine can increase metabolism by as much as 11%, and the burning of fat by up to 13%. By stimulating the central nervous system, it gives metabolism a leg up that allows you to burn as much as 79 extra calories per day.
3. Enhanced exercise performance
When you consume caffeine before exercise, it helps you burn through fat and keep your muscles going for longer. The result: heightened tolerance to fatigue that ups your endurance.
4. Reduced risk of diseases
Evidence suggests that drinking coffee regularly can lower the risk of developing brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It can also defend you against heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and liver damage.
5. Improved skin
Caffeine is often used as an ingredient in skincare, and valued for its ability to reduce puffiness, combat inflammation, and brighten the skin. Ingesting caffeine can also be a great help to the skin, cutting down the risk of developing skin cancer by 20%.
Science shows us that the effects of caffeine are generally benign and even beneficial for health. Consume too much caffeine, though, and you run the risk of experiencing unpleasant symptoms.
Over-consumption of caffeine can cause side effects like anxiety, agitation, feelings of restlessness, and difficulty sleeping. Headaches, frequent urination, and raised blood pressure have also been linked with excess caffeine intake. And in the long term, you may begin to experience heart palpitations and other heart problems, as well as changes in mental health.
Moreover, caffeine is habit-forming and can lead to addiction and abuse. Withdrawing from caffeine use can bring on symptoms like headaches and migraines, fatigue, low mood, irritability, and concentration problems.
The bottom line:
Whether caffeine is good or bad for health all comes down to how much you consume. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that adults should consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine daily. That equals about two to four cups of coffee daily or 200 mg per dose at most.
You should also be wary of consuming too much caffeine if you are pregnant, suffer from high blood pressure, or use certain medications. For others, though, consuming the right amount of caffeine is perfectly healthy, and even health-boosting. So go grab that cup of coffee, and enjoy the benefits.