Caffeine 101: What You Need to Know for Your Health and Fitness

20 Feb

We all drink some form of it – whether it’s coffee or tea or soda.   It’s even naturally occurring in some of the foods we eat.  Caffeine is everywhere, but how much of it should you be consuming and in what form?  Let’s get down to the basics.caffeine

What is caffeine and what does it do?  
Caffeine is a drug that is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants. It’s also produced artificially and added to certain foods. Caffeine is defined as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system, causing increased alertness. Caffeine gives most people a temporary energy boost and elevates mood.

Whether caffeine is consumed in food or as a medicine, it changes the way the brain and body work. Once consumed, caffeine is absorbed into the blood and body tissues within around 45 minutes.  Caffeine blocks the nervous system’s ability to open up the brain’s blood vessels, causing them to constrict – this is the reason caffeine is used in pain relief medicine for headaches. If the headache is vascular, the effect of caffeine narrowing the blood vessels can offer relief.

Where is it found?
Caffeine occurs naturally in the leaves, seeds, or fruit of more than 60 plant species, including:

Coffee beans – seed
Tea leaves – leaves, bud
Kola nuts – seed
Cacao beans – seed
Guarana – seed
Yerba mate – leaf
Yoco – bark

Caffeine no longer only features in tea, coffee, and chocolate; it is regularly added to gum, jelly beans, waffles, water, syrup, and more.  Caffeine is even being added to marshmallows, sunflower seeds, and other snacks for its stimulant effect.

How much is safe?
Studies suggest that moderate amounts of caffeine are not harmful. How much is moderate? One hundred to 200 milligrams (one to two 5-ounce cups of coffee) each day is the limit that some doctors suggest, but each person is different.

How caffeine affects people varies with their size, their sex, how sensitive they are to caffeine’s effects, and any medications or supplements they may be taking. Experts agree that 600 milligrams (four to seven cups of coffee) of caffeine or more each day is too much.

The amount of caffeine included in some common foods and beverages are:

  • Coffee, brewed – 102 -200 milligrams per cup
  • Coffee, instant – 27-173 milligrams per cup
  • Coffee, decaffeinated – 3-12 milligrams per cup
  • Tea, brewed American – 40-120 milligrams per cup
  • Tea, brewed imported – 25-110 milligrams per cup
  • Tea, instant – 28 milligrams per cup
  • Tea, canned iced – 22-36 milligrams per 12 ounces
  • Caffeine-containing cola and other soft drinks – 36-71 milligrams per 12 ounces
  • Cola and other soft drinks, decaffeinated – 0 milligrams per 12 ounces
  • Cocoa – 3 – 13 milligrams per cup
  • Chocolate, milk – 3-6 milligrams per ounce
  • Chocolate, bittersweet – 25 milligrams per ounce

What are the risks of caffeine intake?
Caffeine consumption is generally considered safe.  However, it’s good to keep in mind that caffeine is addictive and some people’s genes make them more sensitive to it.Some side effects linked to excess intake include anxiety, restlessness, tremors, irregular heartbeat and trouble sleeping .  Too much caffeine may also promote headaches, migraines and high blood pressure in some individuals .  Finally, it’s worth noting that caffeine can interact with some medications.

What are the health benefits?
Caffeine consumption is linked to several health benefits:

  • Protection against heart disease and diabetes: Recent evidence shows a 16–18% lower risk of heart disease in men and women who drink between one and four cups of coffee each day.  Other studies show that drinking 2-4 cups of coffee or green tea per day is linked to a 14–20% lower risk of stroke.  A recent review notes that those who drink the most coffee have up to a 29% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Similarly, those who consume the most caffeine have up to a 30% lower risk.
  • Protects the liver: Coffee may reduce the risk of liver damage (cirrhosis) by as much as 84%. It may slow disease progression, improve treatment response and lower the risk of premature death.
  • Promotes longevity: Drinking coffee may decrease the risk of premature death by as much as 30%, especially for women and diabetics.
  • Decreases cancer risk: 2–4 cups of coffee per day may reduce liver cancer risk by up to 64% and colorectal cancer risk by up to 38%.
  • Protects skin: Consuming 4 or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day may lower the risk of skin cancer by 20% .
  • Reduces MS risk: Coffee drinkers may have up to a 30% lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). However, not all studies agree.
  • Prevents gout: Regularly drinking four cups of coffee per day may reduce the risk of developing gout by 40% in men and 57% in women.
  • Supports gut health: Consuming 3 cups of coffee a day for as few as 3 weeks may increase the amount and activity of beneficial gut bacteria

TAKE HOME MESSAGE:  Caffeine is not as unhealthy as it was once believed to be. In fact, evidence shows that it may be just the opposite.  Therefore, it’s safe to consider your daily cup of coffee or tea as an enjoyable way to promote good health.  

See you at the Studio – after my cup of tea, of course!

~Dayna
PX Studio

 

Article Sources:
Medical News Today (www.medicalnewstoday.com)
Authority Nutrition (www.authoritynutrition.com)
CNN Health (www.cnn.com/health)
Evolution Nutrition (www.evolutionnutrition.com)
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