Many people all around the world love a good dosage of caffeine. Whether it is a steamy hot cup of java that kick starts our morning, that big cup of iced cola that helps get us through the mid-day or that chewable energy stimulant to keep you going at night while you study for that big exam you have, people are striving to get through the days with the help of this “medicine”. While research is constantly being conducted, there are benefits and risks to consumption of caffeine.
Caffeine, in low doses, is thought to bring about improvement in sporting performance, increased alertness and reduction in fatigue, potentially lifting a person’s mood. Sport energy drinks are sought out more with sports to enhance an athlete’s performance abilities. Coffee and tea also contain some antioxidants which have positive effects on heart health. Caffeine may help with human brain cells which lower risks of developing some diseases such as Parkinson's disease. Regular cups of coffee may help stimulate the gallbladder, which has shown to reduce the risk of gallstones. Caffeine causes the blood vessel to constrict, which helps relieve headache pain.
On the flip side, excessive amounts of caffeine can lead to dependency due to an increased tolerance. People often rely on caffeine to combat fatigue. When relying on caffeine to get you through the day, it increases your tolerance and it becomes addictive. Too much caffeine can produce restlessness, nausea, sleeping difficulties, upset stomach, increase urine production (causing dehydration as caffeine is a known diuretic) and cardiac arrhythmias ( irregular heartbeat). Heavy users who have to go without caffeine regularly can experience headaches and fatigue. They may experience withdrawal if they are trying to decrease their typical daily dosage. It is recommended to keep a healthy lifestyle if you are trying to decrease your caffeine intake. Exercise daily and stay fully hydrated. Too much caffeine can lead to osteoporosis later in life which results in brittle bones that can lead to less strength and stability. For this reason, it is recommended to make sure you obtain enough calcium to help prevent this. Obtaining calcium in your diet is recommended regardless of if you drink coffee or not. You are just potentially more prone later on. So keep those bones healthy and strong.
So how much caffeine is safe for an individual? The recommendation for safe drinking levels is 200-300 mg of caffeine a day. On average, that is two-to-three cups of coffee per 24-hour period. The recommendation is less for people with high blood pressure and pregnant women. To give you an idea, one cup of coffee contains about 100 mg caffeine, while cola has 47 mg of caffeine. Tea is lower unless brewed strong and black but you can expect less than 50 mg of caffeine per cup.
While caffeine is becoming more popular, as well as, easier to access with drive thru coffee shops and proliferation of energy drinks, it’s easy to say that, because of the hype, research is constantly being conducted. While data shows little or too much caffeine could be beneficial, it is safe to say that if you stay within the guidelines and limit your caffeine to recommended caffeine intake, your body will more than likely be fine. (Take sip from your caffeinated beverage, now)