Caffeine is commonly characterized as a stimulant of the central nervous system also known as a psychostimulant. It is classified as a drug and it is one of the most popular drugs in the world.
Found naturally in over 60 plants caffeine is a common ingredient in soft drinks, energy drinks, coffees, teas, and even some cold and pain medication. As mild stimulant caffeine is often used to restore mental alertness.
Is Caffeine Bad for you?
The most commonly believed myth is that caffeine causes dehydration. Dehydration is when your body does not have enough water or fluids required for optimal functioning.
It can be mild moderate or severe depending on how much of the body’s fluid is lost. Caffeine consumed in large doses such as 500 milligrams or more can cause a diuretic effect on the body.
A diuretic is something that causes excessive production of urine in the body. A literature review that was conducted on the effects of caffeine on fluid optimum hydration found that consuming 250 to 300 milligrams of caffeine which is approximately two to three cups of coffee or five to eight cups of tea resulted in a short-term stimulation of urine output in individuals who have been deprived for a few days to a few weeks.
Tolerance to caffeine
However, consuming caffeine regularly can lead to the development of tolerance against its diuretic effect. Research suggests that abstaining from caffeine for as little as four days is enough to lose this tolerance.
Although higher doses of caffeine can induce an acute increase in urine volume for individuals who are not habituated to caffeine low moderate doses of caffeine does not have the same diuretic effect in this population.
Moreover, research is not conclusive about caffeine causing dehydration when consumed in low to moderate amounts. Therefore abstaining from caffeine, beverages, and situations, where fluid balance is compromised, is not substantiated by research and such beverages can contribute to the daily fluid intake requirements.
Does caffeine increase the risk of coronary heart disease?
As believed that caffeine causes short-term increases in blood pressure and nervous system activity that can trigger a heart attack. However, studies that claim this felt a control for important confounders such as smoking and alcohol use.
In a recent study, participants were given questionnaires to assess caffeine consumption and daily lifestyle characteristics. After adjusting for potential confounders the researchers observed a dose-dependent inverse association between coffee drinking and death due to heart disease.
Lastly, a meta-analysis was performed in 2013 to examine dose-response associations between coffee consumption and mortality from cardiovascular disease. The results show no association between coffee consumption and death due to heart disease with the largest risk reduction being at 3 cups of coffee a day.
This indicates once again that coffee consumption is not related to cardiovascular disease mortality. The literature also shows that while caffeine may increase blood pressure it only does so for 3 hours after consumption and has no long-term impacts even for habitual caffeine drinkers.
It appears that caffeine may have a protective role in heart disease. I fact in addition to heart disease many recent studies have shown that caffeine may actually lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease suggesting that caffeine may have health benefits.
Furthermore, novel studies have provided evidence that caffeine consumption is safe even in individuals with heart failure.
Is caffeine addictive?
Contrary to popular belief caffeine is in fact not addictive.
An addiction in simplest terms is defined as the regular consumption of something that is irresistible and it creates problems.
This is not the case with caffeine as consumption does not harm the consumer or society. Furthermore, consumers are not obligated to consume it. Is more so done by choice.
Caffeine consumers do not display an inability to control their consumption. The majority consume caffeine in the form of coffee for the pleasurable aroma and taste as well as a social atmosphere.
They are often accustomed to such as the workplace. It is true that regular consumption of caffeine can cause symptoms such as headaches during withdrawal, however, these symptoms can be easily reversed and resolved through consumption.
With an addiction, an individual will feel a sense of psychological dependence, meaning they will crave the drug and its compulsive youth separating from associating negative consequences during withdrawal.
This again is not the case with caffeine consumption from a physiological point of view. Any addictive substance will trigger areas of their brain involved in reinforcement or reward.
A study conducted in 2010 measuring the effects of caffeine on the human brain found that although caffeine activates regions of the brain responsible for vigilance anxiety and cardiovascular regulation caffeine does not affect any areas of the brain involved in reinforcement and reward.
Therefore caffeine can’t be considered addictive in nature.
So, What is the truth about caffeine?
Moderate caffeine use is not associated with adverse health effects in healthy individuals. Moderate caffeine consumption is 400 milligrams daily which roughly corresponds to 4.7 cups 8 ounces of coffee, 10 cans of Cola or five cans of energy drinks.
It takes about 15 to 45 minutes for caffeine to reach peak levels in the bloodstream.
Caffeine has a half-life of 5 to 6 hours in the average individual that means that from the time of consumption up to half of the caffeine content can stay in your body.
Consume caffeine when cortisol levels are low
In the following 6 hours, the best times a day to consume caffeine are when cortisol levels are low. Cortisol helps regulate water levels in the body that acts to keep us alert and hydrated.
Consuming caffeine while cortisol levels are at their peak may interfere with cortisol production, therefore, the best times a day to consume caffeine are when cortisol levels are low between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. and after 2 p.m.
It is also not recommended to consume caffeine for at least 6 hours prior to going to sleep.
Caffeine has a number of short-term effects including insomnia, anxiety, and increased heart rates but can also increase performance and energy levels.
The facts provided in this article are true for the general population but caffeine sensitivity does differ between individuals.
Be cautious when consuming caffeine and speak to a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about the effects of caffeine on your body or if you start to notice any side effects.