Do you find yourself confused about whether or not coffee is good for you? Have you had someone tell you that caffeine is bad for you? Caffeine (and coffee in particular) have always seemed to get mixed reviews about the health benefits or risks and it can be hard to discern what is accurate and what is not. One minute coffee is full of antioxidants and you’re being told you should be drinking multiple cups per day, and the next minute you’re being told that caffeine can cause health problems and should be consumed only sparingly. This is definitely frustrating when you’re trying your best to live a healthy life, so today we wanted discuss all things caffeine to help clarify fact vs fiction!
What is caffeine and where is it found?
Caffeine is defined as a compound that stimulates the central nervous system, and for this reason it is classified as a drug. Caffeine is commonly found in various foods and beverages, most notably including: coffee, tea and chocolate.
Other beverages such as sodas and energy drinks have added caffeine. Caffeine can also be found in some pain killers, cold medicines and diet supplements. The table below shows the range of caffeine content for some common foods and drinks containing caffeine.
|Substance||Serving size||Caffeine Content|
|Brewed coffee||6 oz||80-150 mg|
|Espresso||1 oz||30-50 mg|
|Decaf coffee||6 oz||2-10 mg|
|Brewed Tea||6 oz||30-90 mg|
|Canned or bottled tea||12 oz||8-32 mg|
|Soft Drinks||12 oz||20-70 mg|
|Milk Chocolate||1.5 oz||2-10 mg|
|Dark Chocolate||1.5 oz||5-35 mg|
|Pain Medicines||2 tablets||65-130 mg|
|Weight loss pills||2-3 tablets||80-200 mg|
How does caffeine act in the body?
Caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor, meaning it constricts blood vessels, thereby reducing blood flow throughout the body which can lead to increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Other potential side effects can include reflux due to increased stomach acid production, diarrhea, dizziness, anxiety and insomnia.
The caffeine molecule is similar in structure to adenosine, a naturally occurring compound in the brain. There are various adenosine receptors in the body, which when bound with an adenosine molecule act to help the body relax, or make it sleepy. Since caffeine is a similar shape to adenosine, it can also bind to the receptors, making adenosine unable to bind to the receptors, and therefore keeping the body awake and alert (Source).
Caffeine Molecule (Source)
Studies show that consuming greater than 100 mg of caffeine daily can lead to physical dependence and potential withdrawal symptoms in the absence of caffeine intake (Source). The average American citizen is consuming 280 mg of caffeine daily.
Caffeine is contraindicated in various conditions including pregnancy, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), anxiety disorder and insomnia due to effects it has on blood circulation and stimulation of stomach acid.
Fact vs Fiction
Caffeine increases your risk of cancer: Fiction
There are no studies to support the notion that caffeine intake causes cancer, in fact some studies suggest it may have protective effects against cancer due to its high antioxidant properties. NIH studies also show coffee may decrease risk of Alzheimers disease, Parkinsons disease, Type II Diabetes and various other conditions (source).
Caffeine intake causes heart disease: Fiction
There are no studies linking caffeine intake to increased incidence cardiovascular disease. Those who have high blood pressure may want to moderate caffeine intake due to the temporary rise in blood pressure as a result of vasoconstriction in the blood vessels.
Caffeine causes dehydration: Fiction
Though caffeine can have a slight diuretic effect, studies fail to prove that caffeine itself causes dehydration. Make sure to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day to offset any fluid losses from caffeine.
Caffeine is harmful to pregnant women: Fact/Fiction
The general recommendation regarding caffeine intake during pregnancy is less than 200 mg/day (or about 2 cups of coffee) as higher caffeine intakes have been linked with increased risk of miscarriage.
Caffeine is addictive: Fact/Fiction
Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system and chronic consumption can lead to withdrawal symptoms if caffeine intake is stopped, though moderate caffeine intake is not linked to a physical dependence on the substance.
Moderate caffeine intake is safe. Coffee in particular has some additional health benefits likely related to the antioxidant properties. Pregnant women and children should have limited caffeine intake, and those with existing cardiovascular disease may want to discuss their caffeine intake with their doctor. Avoiding high doses of caffeine found in supplements and energy drinks would be best as high doses of caffeine may have some adverse effects.
Be sure to check out our post about healthier ways to flavor your coffee for all of you coffee drinkers! And if you are still on the pumpkin spice train- don’t miss this clean eating pumpkin spice creamer!
Talk to us: Do you drink coffee? How much caffeine do you have in a day?