Health

The Great Caffeine Debate: How Much is Too Much?

| by Fit Bottomed Girls

Credit: sh0dan

Today’s guest post is provided by Maxine Dee, a mother and wife who is dedicated to going green. The more she has learned, the more important she has seen it is for her family’s health and well-being, as well as that of the earth. When not with her family, she works for Treetopia, a seller of artificial Christmas trees.

Caffeine. Often hailed as one of the most addictive substances on Earth, this psychoactive stimulant was first isolated from coffee by the German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge in 1820, and in 1820 by French chemists Robiquet and by Pelletier and Caventou. It was Pelletier who named it “café” from the drink it was taken from. While found in many leaves and plants, humans often consume the substance caffeine from coffee, tea or other drinks and food containing the essence of the kola nut (the fruit of the tree used to make cola drinks). But how healthy is caffeine? And what are the risks? What about the benefits?

As a culture we have loved caffeine for generations. It acts as a stimulant to our central nervous system—knocking off drowsiness and increasing alertness. Plus, it is often packaged with sugar, boosting not only its effects as a stimulant but also greatly improving the taste. Caffeine is found in most energy drinks and is right there in your morning coffee and in the soda you had with lunch. It’s been found that 90 percent of North Americans consume caffeine daily, and its mere presence in the market is staggering, with coffee places at every corner, and soda commercials every other minute blazing through the television or in the corner of your favorite website.

But caffeine does have its benefits. The jolt of energy in the morning, the boost of confidence before a big meeting, and the reassurance of its accessibility make it an easy and efficient option. Caffeine has also been cited as an aid to weight-loss. But is it safe? And what are the pros and cons of caffeine? The Mayo Clinic released a few key points to remember.

The Caffeine Pros

  • Appetite suppression. There have been some studies suggesting that small doses of caffeine will lead to appetite suppression, and while the Mayo Clinic contends that it may lead to the person not wanting to eat for a short period of time, there are no scientific studies that support long-term weight loss due to caffeine consumption.
  • Metabolism. While coffee can definitely boost thermogenesis (the process your body goes through to produce heat and energy to burn fat), there is not a sizable enough effect on the body to completely burn off that Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
  • Water loss. Coffee acts a diuretic, which leads to temporary water weight[-]loss. However, as you drink more and more caffeine, you develop a strong tolerance and it loses the diuretic properties.

The Caffeine Cons

While the effects are good but limited, there are also some downsides to the prevalence of caffeine in our diets.

  • It’s addicting. A legal, but addicting substance, caffeine is one of the most appealing substances on Earth. Whether it’s waking you up or energizing you for a workout, caffeine fosters dependence. The more you drink, the more you need to produce an effect, so if you start drinking a cup of coffee a day to wake up, you might need more as time goes on. This explains why some people can drink up to six cups of coffee without feeling any effects, as opposed to those who never do, and cannot sleep after half a cup.
  • You develop a tolerance. People develop a tolerance after drinking more than 600 milligrams of caffeine every day, which can also lead to nervousness, sweating, tension, insomnia and anxiety. This level of caffeine in the body is significantly risky, as it can increase the side effects from some medications. If you consume a lot of caffeine, make sure to tell your doctor!
  • There are side effects. The side effects of too much caffeine can get really bad. For those who have existing conditions, caffeine intake can be dangerous. Those with heart and circulation problems should refrain from caffeine intake as this stimulant directly affects your blood and heart.

That said, caffeine is not at all bad when taken in moderation. Drinking a soda now and then followed by a few cups of water is a good way to cleanse your system. Instead of coffee, try tea, which has less caffeine and is better for your heart. Caffeine doesn’t need to be a vice in your life, if you don’t let it.

How much caffeine do you get a day? —Maxine Dee