Guest post by Dr Laura Villa; Image by Craig Melville from Pixabay
Fun fact: caffeine is the most common psychoactive chemical, meaning it can have mind or emotional altering properties.
There are a lot of people that like to start the day with a cup of coffee. Our minds and bodies rely on it after a while. But is that a bad thing?
Caffeine is a natural component of coffee, cacao, and tea, and is commonly added to soft drinks, energy drinks, and certain medications for its stimulatory and diuretic effects.
It turns out that consuming caffeine has some significant benefits. But caffeine has a few downsides too.
Consuming caffeine has some real advantages:
- Caffeine is a stimulant when used at appropriate dosages. This is one of the reasons many people love a cup of coffee in the morning. Sure, coffee tastes great, but we also love the feeling of alertness and focus that the caffeine from coffee provides.
- Caffeine is good for your mood. Caffeine is a mood-booster for many people. You feel more capable and the day looks a little brighter.
- Caffeine blunts your appetite. Caffeine is also used in many appetite suppressants. You are not as hungry after consuming caffeine.
- Caffeine increases fat oxidation. It does not burn fat to any noticeable degree, but it does release fatty acids into the bloodstream where they can be burned by the body for energy.
- Boosts the effect of painkillers. Some painkillers, like Excedrin, contain caffeine, because it boosts the effects of the other ingredients. Many pain killing medications simply work better in the presence of caffeine.
- Decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. No one is 100% sure why, but consuming caffeine regularly seems to reduce the likelihood of developing these conditions.
Consider the disadvantages of caffeine too:
- Upset stomach. Caffeine can irritate the stomach lining and stimulate the intestinal tract. Caffeine can cause nausea and diarrhea.
- Insomnia. The stimulatory effects of caffeine can make it challenging to fall asleep at night. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. Be careful about how much caffeine you consume after the afternoon. You might have a long night.
- Heart palpitations. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Caffeine can over-stimulate the heart and lead to heart palpitations. The dosage needed to create this effect varies significantly from person to person.
- Nervousness. Too much stimulation can create nervousness and anxiety. We have all known that jittery feeling that too much caffeine produces.
In moderation, caffeine can be a good thing for those who are not overly sensitive to it. If you believe that caffeine is having a negative impact on your health or life, cut back. For those who regularly consume large amounts, they may get mild headaches or feel tired if they stop suddenly. To avoid side effects, I recommend slowly tapering down your intake.
- Zwyghuizen-Doorenbos A, Roehrs TA, Lipschutz L, Timms V, Roth T. Effects of caffeine on alertness. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1990;100(1):36-39. doi:10.1007/BF02245786
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research; Marriott BM, editor. Food Components to Enhance Performance: An Evaluation of Potential Performance-Enhancing Food Components for Operational Rations. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1994. 20, Effects of Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood, and Alertness in Sleep-Deprived Humans. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209050/
- Brice CF, Smith AP. Effects of caffeine on mood and performance: a study of realistic consumption. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2002;164(2):188-192. doi:10.1007/s00213-002-1175-2