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Caffeine - positives and negatives

Men's Health, Sleep Disorders, Women's Health | May 8, 2019 | Author: Naturopath

Insomnia, men, women's health

Caffeine - positives and negatives

Caffeine can be found in some most unexpected places. Apart from the usual cup of coffee, this chemical is also in tea, cola drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and cocoa. It is available as a diet pill, found in some flu medication, cellulite cream and even in shampoo.

Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant and even though it is often considered bad for health, in some circumstances, it can actually be beneficial.

Caffeine can have an affect on muscles, the heart, blood vessels, kidney, lungs as well as the central nervous system and other areas of the body.

It is a stimulant and because of this people will feel more energetic and alert after consumption. This is also why you may not sleep if you have too much.

The Technical jargon 

Caffeine is a nitrogenous organic compound of the alkaloid class. It occurs naturally in tea, coffee, cola, guarana, cocoa and mate. Pure coffee (trimethylxanthine) is a pure white powder or silk needles. It is odourless with a bitter taste.Caffeine

  • Coffee is the drink obtained from ground and roasted coffee seeds (beans) of the coffee plant. Two main species of plants supplying most of the coffee found commercially are Coffea arabica and C. canephora. Caffeine content in ground coffee is about 0.75 -1.50 percent of weight, with the average cup of coffee containing approximately 100mg.
  • Tea. Thea sinensis plant provides the popular cup of tea we drink. Tea contains approximately 40mg caffeine depending on strength.
  • Cola. Cola acuminate – provides nuts, tea and carbonated drinks. Approximately 35mg/250mls of caffeine.
  • Cocoa. Theobroma cacao gives us chocolate and cocoa. Caffeine content is anywhere between 10 - 70mg per 250mls. Chocolate bars might have 20 - 60mg/200gms.
  • Guarana (Paulinia cupana) found in energy drinks, snack bars and supplements. Check label for caffeine content.
  • Medications such as slimming or headache/cold/flu may containe from 20 -100mg/dose.

Caffeine can affect people differently. This is dependent on a person’s physical size, weight and general health and the amount and regularity of consumption. Caffeine can have a different effect if combined with certain medication. (Check with your pharmacist or doctor for advice if you are taking medication before consuming caffeine containing products).

The effects of consuming caffeine can last up to 12 hours.

Positives of caffeine

Caffeine contains antioxidants and can have an anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic action. Studies have revealed some interesting benefits to consuming caffeine.

Type 2 diabetes. Experimental and epidemiologic evidences suggest the consumption coffee offers a protective effect for people with type 2 diabetes offering multiple mechanisms of action.

Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Caffeine can protect the brain. Caffeine was found to be beneficial for both men and women with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, showing a neuroprotective effect, with further study suggested.

Depression. As well as helping to get us going in the morning and to give us a lift in the afternoon, caffeine has been found to help with mild to moderate depression. The experts haven’t quite worked out the mechanism of action yet, but one hypothesis suggested is that depression is a result of inflammation of the brain. It is thought the antioxidants and other chemicals found in caffeine, have an anti-inflammatory action.

Another theory is the psycho-stimulating effect of caffeine has a motivating action, giving back the get-up-and go. One of the characteristics of depression, is a lack of motivation.

Bowel cancer. Caffeine was found to be associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer-specific death and overall death in people with colorectal cancer. Further studies need to be performed to determine the mechanisms by which coffee might reduce colorectal cancer progression.

Weight loss. Caffeine increases metabolic rate, improving fat burning capacity and supporting exercise performance and motivation.

Exercise performance. Caffeine has been shown to enhance endurance, strength, mood, alertness and cognitive functioning in athelets. 

How much is too much?

​How much is too much.The amount of caffeine in products varies. An expresso may contain from 150-400mg/50ml cup, whilst a cup of tea might contain 50ml/250ml cup.

The daily limit of caffeine consumption is suggested at 400mg.

Negatives to caffeine

Being a stimulant on the central nervous system can mean too much caffeine can result in nervousness, agitation and anxiety. It can cause the heart beat to increase and breathing to quicken. It can deprave the ability to sleep.

Other more serious concerns include:

  • Increase blood pressure – Caffeine can cause a spike in blood pressure – and should be avoided before performing other activities that may also increase blood pressure. This can include hard labour or exercise. People with high blood pressure should limit caffeine intake generally.  Some people who drink coffee regularly have a higher blood pressure than those that don’t.  Although some ong-term consumers may show no change in blood pressure.
  • Reflux – Caffeine may irritate the oesophagus and weaken the lower oesophageal sphincter resulting in the contents of the stomach returning and causing what is known as reflux.
  • Osteoporosis – It is unclear whether some particular caffeine containing beverages could be affecting bone density. The suggestion is to limit coffee and cola consumption to no more than 400mg per day or reduce further.
  • Miscarriage – orally consumed caffeine passes through the placenta and crosses the blood/brain barrier and the metabolites accumulate in the brain of the foetus. Caffeine causes a vasoconstriction of the umbilical cord reducing the amount of oxygen received by the foetus.
  • Infertility – caffeine consumption may negatively affect sperm resulting in male infertility.
  • Insomnia - due to the stimulating effect of caffeine on the central nervous system, some people can experience serious sleep disturbances.

Contraindications and cautions

Caffeine is considered a drug in which habitual, excessive intake may have an addictive effect, if not a dependence. Its stimulating action (speeding up messages traveling between the brain and body) is often used to induce wakefulness, at the expense of needed sleep.

You can overdose on caffeine if large amounts are taken. 000 should be called for emergency medical attention if any of the following is experienced.

  • Tremors
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fast and irregular heart beat
  • Seizures
  • Confusion or panic

Caffeine poisoning can occur in children if too much is consumed.

If you regularly consume large amounts of caffeine (over 4 cups of coffee/day for example) you may eventually experience symptoms which may include:

  • Restlessness, nervousness, irritability
  • Sleep issues
  • Ringing in the ears or dizziness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Reduced appetite, nausea vomiting or a loose bowel
  • Increased thirst, more frequent urination and increased amount
  • Rapid heart beat and increased breathing rate
  • Low blood pressure

It can interfere with some medication such as antibiotics, heart, asthma and mental health medicines. Discuss with your doctor or pharmacist whether caffeine could affect your medication.

Caffeine and Alcohol - Consuming caffeine whilst drinking alcohol can mask the affects of alcohol leading to drinking more than intended.

Caffeine and stimulating drugs - Taking both may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.

If you are a heavy caffeine consumer and have decided to reduce the amount in your daily intake be aware you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These can include headaches, fatigue, irritability, trouble concentrating and nausea. It is suggested to reduce caffeine intake gradually over a few weeks to avoid symptoms.

Healthy alternatives

Make the switch to water, herbal drinks such as chicory root, dandelion root, peppermint teas, carob, milk drinks. fruit and vegetable juices or decaffeinated coffees and as alternative to chocolate.
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Remember caffiene is found in chocolate, tea, coffee, energy drinks and cola as well as some medications. Amounts will vary depending on products.

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Effects of coffee on type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The neuroprotective effects of caffeine in neurodegenerative diseases.

Association Between Coffee Intake After Diagnosis of Colorectal Cancer and Reduced Mortality.

Adherence to the Caffeine Intake Guideline during Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes: A Prospective Cohort Study

Coffee and caffeine intake and male infertility: a systematic review

The effect of acute caffeine ingestion on upper and lower body anaerobic exerciseperformance.

Exercise and sport performance with low doses of caffeine.

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