Is Caffeine Bad or Good For You?

by | Nutrition

May 29, 2021

Simply put, caffeine is a natural stimulant and is consumed worldwide, usually as an ingredient in tea, coffee, and even soft drinks. It is found naturally in certain seeds, nuts, and leaves. These natural sources are harvested and processed, and the caffeine in them is extracted to produce the caffeinated beverages we drink.

Like other stimulants or psychoactive drugs, caffeine works to stimulate the nervous system and is known to prevent the early onset of tiredness (1). It explains why we usually feel alert just after taking a cup of coffee and also why we go through most of the morning excited and on the go after a caffeinated beverage. 

How Does it Work? 

Caffeine does what it does by tweaking the adenosine receptors in our brains just a little bit. This prevents the effects of adenosine, which leads to reduced tiredness. It also increases the adrenaline present in our blood and increases brain activity involving dopamine and norepinephrine, so we stay alert. 

Caffeine exerts its effects rapidly. So, it could take only a few minutes after a cup of coffee to start feeling it in you. 

How Much Caffeine is Enough?

It’s common knowledge that our bodies require just an optimal amount of nutrients and, sometimes, stimulants to function properly. Too much of a particular nutrient or stimulant could prove to deter normal bodily function, and caffeine is not an exception. So, how much caffeine is enough? 

Well, to be on the safe side, from 0 – 400milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day is recommended (2) as this amount seems to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s about the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee or 8-10 cans of cola or two drinks. 

Please also note that there are some exceptions to this. Some adults are more sensitive to caffeine than others. And less than 400 milligrams could still trigger some side effects in them. Think of it as a personal thing. Nonetheless, the suggested or recommended amount is from 0-400milligrams. 

Caffeine is not recommended for children. Pregnant women should also limit themselves to as little as possible (3).

How Much Is Too Much?

On average, any amount of more than 400mg of caffeine per day is too much. At least for most of the population. Although, like stated earlier, it might not be too much for a certain good number of people. But, little is best. 

Side Effects Of Too Much Caffeine

Too much of it circulating in the body is considered a caffeine overdose. This could present a number of symptoms. Some of which include (4):

  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Irritability

The above are mild and somewhat acute symptoms of caffeine overdose and can be overlooked or may even go unnoticed. But there are more severe ones, which include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Uncontrollable muscle movements
  • Convulsions

If you experience any of these after ingesting a large amount of caffeine, you might want to seek medical attention. 

Other effects of caffeine include:

1. Anxiety:

High daily intakes of 1,000 mg or more per day have been observed to cause nervousness, jitteriness, and other similar symptoms in most people. (5).

2. Addiction:

Although many do not believe that caffeine is a classic addictive drug, as is cocaine and its likes, it has been observed to trigger some form of addiction in long-term consumers of the stimulant. They always want a cup, and then another, and soon, they can’t go a day or two without coffee. (6)

In coffee addicts, going without caffeine for several hours on end may present psychological or physical withdrawal symptoms.  

3. Muscle Breakdown:

Certain people may develop a condition called rhabdomyolysis after ingesting large amounts of caffeine. (7).

4. Insomnia:

Since caffeine keeps one alert, it’s only normal that it is capable of preventing sleep. Studies have shown that intake of it over a long period of time increases the time one takes to fall asleep. (11). Caffeine addicts would have a harder time falling asleep. 

5. Digestive Problems:

Coffees are known to have a laxative effect. This effect of the stimulant has been attributed to its ability to stimulate the release of gastrin from the stomach, a hormone that speeds up activity in the colon. (8).

In itself, caffeine might stimulate bowel movements by increasing the contractions that move food through your digestive tract—Peristalsis. This is why certain people pass loose stools or even show signs of diarrhea in some people after a large intake of caffeine. According to some studies, caffeinated beverages may worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in some people. (9).

6. High Blood Pressure:

Does caffeine increase blood pressure? Well. That’s a complicated question to answer. It isn’t exactly a polar question and can’t be given a direct ‘Yes,’ or a direct ‘No’ as the answer. 

On average, caffeine doesn’t seem to increase the risk of heart disease or stroke in most people. However, it has been known to raise blood pressure. This is due to its stimulatory effect on the nervous system. (10). It’s common knowledge that blood pressure above normal is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke; it may damage blood vessels over time, restricting the flow of blood to your heart and brain.

The effect caffeine has on blood pressure seems to be short-term. And it also seems to have the strongest impact on people who aren’t used to consuming it. Even though there isn’t a straight answer to whether or not caffeine causes high blood pressure, paying close attention to the dosage is necessary, especially if you already experience having high blood pressure.

7. Fatigue:

Even though caffeine increases alertness, it can also have the opposite effect by leading to ‘rebound’ fatigue after the caffeine leaves your system, just as alcohol leaves one sadder than he was before intake after its effects have worn off.

If you continue to take lots of it throughout the day, you can avoid the rebound effect. This is possible because by pumping and pumping, you keep your body’s caffeine levels steady. This may affect your ability to sleep. To avoid rebound fatigue that accompanies caffeine intake, consume moderate amounts of the stimulant rather than high doses.

Is Coffee Good For The Skin?

Well, yes. It is. 

Even though widely used as a beverage, coffee does have amazing benefits to the skin. Its effects on the skin are due to its antioxidants, including phenols, that help fight free radicals that can lead to skin damage. 

How Can Caffeine Improve the Skin?

1. Cellulite reduction: 

Coffee may reduce the emergence of cellulite on the skin. It’s believed that the caffeine content of coffee is the key to reducing cellulite. (11). It also helps minimize the appearance of cellulite on the skin by dilating blood vessels beneath the skin and improving overall blood flow to the skin.

2. Anti-Skin-Cancer:

Coffee contains a lot of rich vitamin B3 (niacin). Niacin may help prevent nonmelanoma skin cancers and prevent other skin growths. (12).

3. Anti-Inflammation:

Caffeine is known to have anti-inflammatory effects. (13). These effects are due to the chlorogenic acids, as well as melanoidins present in coffee. Chlorogenic acids are believed to combat hyperpigmentation. 

4. Anti-aging effects:

Applying coffee directly to one’s skin may help reduce the appearance of sunspots, redness, and fine lines. 

Coffee and Weight Gain:

On its own, coffee does not cause weight gain. It might even cause weight loss, seeing that it keeps one awake and active. Activity causes our bodies to use up more calories. So, when active, we might not exactly gain weight. But, being that coffee has a bitter taste, it usually is not taken on its own. Most consumers take coffee with sugar and milk, both of which are high-calorie products. It is these products ( milk and sugar ) that preset a risk of weight gain. 

A lot of sugar intake would present weight gain, especially in consumers who do not use up a lot of calories. 

You can also prevent weight gain by limiting the amount of sugar and milk in your coffee drinks. 

Summary

  • Coffee is a natural stimulant found in many beverages and keeps one alert and prevents the onset of tiredness.
  • 400mg is just enough for a day. Any amount above this is too much. One who takes more than 400mg would present symptoms of caffeine overdose.
  • Children should not take caffeine, and pregnant women should stick to taking as little as possible. 
  • Side effects of caffeine intake include addiction, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, high blood pressure, weight loss, or even weight gain. Stick to taking little doses of caffeine daily. 
  • Caffeine contains antioxidants that have a good effect on the skin. Vitamin B3( Niacin ) may be helpful in preventing skin cancers and the likes.
  • Coffee also has an anti-inflammatory effect. 
  • On its own, coffee does not cause weight gain. However, the sweetened products with which caffeine is usually taken could cause weight gain. 
  • With caffeine, little is best. 

Photo by Daria Gordova on Unsplash

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