Most Americans consume caffeine daily, whether it’s drinking their favorite soda, having their morning coffee, or indulging on a piece of chocolate, but is it healthy? And how much caffeine should we consume? Here we will explore the pros and cons of caffeine and allow you to decide for yourself whether it is good or bad for you.
Before we get started, I would like to put a myth about caffeine to rest, and that is the myth that caffeine dehydrates you. This misinformation can be traced back to a 1928 study where it was found that caffeine was a diuretic. The details from this study became misinterpreted, and the rumor spread that it caused dehydration. Although it causes increased urination, it does not cause you to lose more fluids than you have taken in. That would certainly be a drawback, but as there is no truth to it, it doesn’t make our list.
- Anxiety: Consumption of caffeine is known to exasperate anxiousness and may contribute to panic attacks.
- Blood pressure: Caffeine temporarily raises blood pressure. Some doctors believe lengthy inconsistency in blood pressure may lead to cardiovascular health problems. However, the spike in blood pressure seems to be more substantial in individuals who do not drink caffeine regularly, i.e., your body adapts with regular consumption.
- Causes head discomfort: Caffeine can treat or prevent head discomfort. It can also cause it from withdrawal or the reversal of the blood vessels narrowing.
- It can be part of an unhealthy lifestyle: A study has shown that males who consume excessive amounts of caffeine may experience an early death. However, those who reported higher caffeine consumption were also more likely to smoke and have poor fitness. Correlation may not equal causation.
- Insomnia: Caffeinated beverages may cause insomnia and sleep latency (difficulty falling asleep). Most average caffeine drinkers are aware of this and take precautions to avoid caffeine in the evening.
- Acid reflux: Caffeine can contribute to the development of acid reflux. This is because it can relax the lower esophageal sphincter (LEG), which acts as a valve and keeps stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus.
- Withdrawal: Caffeine is known to be addictive. The withdrawals may include headache, fatigue, low energy, irritability, anxiety, poor concentration, depressed mood, and tremors.
- It’s not for everyone: Some people may experience gastrointestinal distress, excitability and shaking, overstimulation, or rapid heart rate with even small amounts of caffeine. These people should avoid caffeine.
- Increased energy and vigilance: When you consume caffeine, it causes mild central nervous system stimulation, making you feel more alert and less fatigued.
- Memory support: Caffeine helps you stay attentive and focused and has been shown to help boost memory consolidation. Studies have even shown that regularly drinking coffee may support your body against some neurological decline.
- Alleviate head discomfort: Caffeine can help alleviate head discomfort due to its anti-inflammatory properties and by narrowing blood vessels. This is why it is often added to over-the-counter medications. It can make the medication up to 40% more effective.
- Longevity: Studies have shown positive life expectancies for some who moderately consumed caffeine regularly throughout their life.
- Pre and post-exercise: Caffeine can be used as a pre-workout energizer and has the added benefit of reducing post-workout muscle soreness by up to 48%.
- Quality of Life (QOL): Coffee, in particular, is the second-most consumed beverage in the world (next to tea). It’s high in caffeine, but more than that, it is part of our culture and cultures around the world. It brings us together socially. We like the way it makes us feel. We enjoy the way it tastes. We love the routine of buying it, making it, and drinking it. And we certainly love the atmosphere of a good coffee shop! All of this improves our quality of life by making us feel happier and connected.
There are many contradictions when studying the pros and cons of consuming caffeine. There are many factors to consider, and what is right for one person may not be right for another. Most of the health risks were when caffeine was consumed at higher doses. Most of the benefits were achieved at moderate consumption (200mg - 400mg daily). I believe, like with many things, moderation is key.