Caffeine is used commonly around the world. It helps professionals get through the day, aides students in pulling all-nighters, and serves as a key ingredient in one of the most popular social drinks in the world, coffee. The benefits and risks of caffeine use, however, are debated among the medical community. So, are there any true benefits to drinking caffeine? And how can we avoid the risks?
First of all, what exactly is caffeine? Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound that is found in the beans, leaves and fruit of particular plants. Caffeine is actually classified as a psychoactive stimulant drug. This means that it crosses into the brain and acts upon the central nervous system, altering perception. In fact, caffeine is the only psychoactive drug in the world that is legal and unregulated. The effects of caffeine intake are, like other stimulants, changes in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior. It temporarily ends drowsiness and stimulates alertness in the body.
There are 115-175mg of caffeine in a cup of drip coffee, 80-135 mg in a cup of percolated coffee and 100mg in a shot of espresso. Caffeine is also found in natural tea leaves. There are 50mg of caffeine in a serving of black tea and 30mg in green tea. Caffeine can also be artificially added to drinks. There are 34mg of caffeine in 12oz of Coca-Cola, 54mg in Mountain Dew and 80mg in 8 oz. of Red Bull. It only takes, however, about 30-40 mg of caffeine to reap effects, which typically last around 3-4 hours.
The benefits of caffeine are not fully known, but some research has found a connection between coffee drinkers and a lowered potential for the onset of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. According to research, coffee drinkers may also have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes. Caffeine increases mental cognition. It increases the amount of adrenalin in the body, causing the heart rate to speed up, the pupils to dilate and the muscles to tighten. Caffeine just gives the body a general boost, and can raise functioning when the body is fatigued.
While there are no major health risks associated with caffeine, the general healthiness of consistent caffeine use is debatable. The only found risk associated with caffeine use is health problems due to overuse of caffeine. The recommended amount of caffeine is no more than 400 mg a day, but many people consume much more than that. General consumers pay little mind to serving sizes and the amount of caffeine they are actually consuming. Caffeine is also present in places one may not expect, such as chocolate. If caffeine is consumed excessively, the body will begin to build up immunity, of sorts, to the effects of caffeine. This means that the body can actually display symptoms of caffeine addiction and withdrawal, such as restlessness, irritability, anxiety, heartburn, headaches, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, rapid heartbeat and nausea.
The best way to use caffeine safely is to make an effort to limit caffeine intake to the amount actually needed in order to feel effects, which is 40 mg. Then, consumers should drink another 40mg amount after those effects have worn off.