close
Advertisement

Caffeine: Does it Harm or Heal?

The pros and cons of regularly drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages.

Caffeine: Does it Harm or Heal?
Thinkstock
Advertisement

The Pros: When Caffeine Helps

  • Sleep Deprivation: Caffeine combats drowsiness by tricking your brain into feeling alert. It temporarily blocks adenosine, a naturally sedating brain chemical, to prevent fatigue. Without a full night’s sleep, you’ll wake with more adenosine in your brain than normal. A hit of caffeine neutralises adenosine and helps you feel less sleepy.
  • Workouts: “Caffeine can improve physical performance in an endurance exercise like running, but the effect is less for short bursts of movement,” says Matthew Ganio, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Arkansas. Caffeine prompts the body to burn more fat stores instead of the limited stores of carbohydrate in our muscles. When the muscles run out of carbohydrate, you get tired. The benefit may be smaller in regular caffeine users.
  • Parkinson’s: Several large studies have found that people who drink several cups of coffee a day have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s patients gradually lose the nerve cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Caffeine may protect those nerve cells.
  • Painkiller: When a headache comes on, the blood vessels in your brain widen; caffeine constricts them. It’s also a mild pain reliever.

The Cons: When Caffeine May Hurt

  • Pregnancy: Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should consume no more than 200mg of caffeine a day because the harmful effects of more than that on fertility and foetal health cannot be ruled out, according to perinatal organisations.
  • Disrupted Sleep: “People don’t realise how much caffeine affects their sleep,” says Laura Juliano, a professor of psychology at American University in Washington. “For those who are slow metabolisers of caffeine, there’s still enough in their system to disrupt sleep at night even if they stop consuming it much earlier in the day.”

Neutral Ground: When Caffeine Doesn’t Matter

  • Heart Rhythm: In a study of more than 130,000 men and women for 30 years, drinking coffee (regular or decaf) didn’t increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmias, even among those with existing heart conditions.
  • Weight: Many companies add caffeine to weight-loss pills to speed up the metabolic rate, at least for a short period of time. Yet “there’s little evidence that consuming caffeine leads to significant weight loss or helps people keep weight off,” says Ganio.
  • Blood Pressure: While caffeine users experience modest increase in blood pressure, long-term studies don’t show a clear link between coffee consumption and the development of hypertension, notes Rob van Dam of the National University of Singapore.

Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest (December 2012), © 2012 by nutrition.com, nutritionalaction.com



Advertisement
37 fat-burning foods to help you lose weight

37 fat-burning foods to help you lose weight

There’s no magical way to lose weight instantly. But paired with exercise, these foods have the power to torch fat you just can’t seem to get rid of.
The 8 weight loss roadblocks holding you back

The 8 weight loss roadblocks holding you back

Stuck in a weight-loss plateau? These surprising factors may be preventing you from reaching your goal weight. Here’s how to outsmart these weight-loss roadblocks, from the book Stop & Drop Diet.
Experts won't touch these 49 foods

Experts won't touch these 49 foods

Want to know what the experts avoid? Here’s the list of foods, processed goods, ingredients and chemicals that nutritionists won’t put on their plates – so you shouldn't either.
Has your diet failed to show results? Here's 20 reasons why

Has your diet failed to show results? Here's 20 reasons why

You think you're making all the right moves, so why aren't the kilos melting off? You might be making these crucial mistakes.
The 10 most common weight loss tips you should ignore

The 10 most common weight loss tips you should ignore

It's time to reconsider everything you once held true about dieting.
Advertisement