Caffeine is a part of our everyday life. Whether you need to kick start your day or freshen up before that important meeting or keeping you awake before an exam or presentation; caffeine always comes handy. But are you aware of the pluses and minuses of the dear cup of your favourite beverage?
Most of us are addicted to our morning cup of coffee / tea and we clearly know that it contains caffeine. But not only tea / coffee, caffeine is present in other foods like cola drinks, cocoa beans, energy drinks, chocolates and certain medicines like pain killers, diet pills / weight reduction supplements and medicines for cold as well. For most healthy adults 200-300 mg (2-4 cups of coffee) of caffeine a day is not harmful. But a daily caffeine use of more than 500-600 mg a day may lead to certain unpleasant effects.
Caffeine content of commonly consumed beverages:
|Coffee||240 mL||95-200 mg*|
|Coffee, Decaffeinated||240 mL||2-12 mg|
|Black Tea||240 mL||14-61 mg*|
|Black Tea, Decaffeinated||240 mL||0-12 mg|
|Green Tea||240 mL||24-40 mg|
|Coke||355 mL||30-35 mg|
|Diet Coke||355 mL||38-47 mg|
|Pepsi||355 mL||32-39 mg|
|Diet Pepsi||355 mL||27-37 mg|
|Red Bull||250 mL||76-80 mg|
* Caffeine content of coffee is affected by roasting, grinding and brewing of coffee beans. The caffeine content of tea is affected by brewing time. Adapted from Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
Pluses of Caffeine
- Can increase your alertness and give you a boost of energy.
- Might improve exercise performance.
- May slightly boost weight loss or prevent weight gain, but currently, there is no proper evidence to prove this.
- In a research published in the journal Circulation Heart Failure it was concluded that drinking about 2 cups (1 cup: 240mL) of coffee daily may prevent heart failure, decreasing risk by up to 11%.
- In another research published in the journal Cancer Research it was suggested that drinking coffee could lower the chances of developing basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer. The study also found that tea, cola and chocolate also appear to reduce risk.
- Several other pieces of research have shown that caffeine may protect against illnesses like type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer and liver cirrhosis.
Minuses of Caffeine
- Excessive caffeine can produce symptoms like insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach upset, rapid heartbeat, muscle tremors and anxiety.
- It may also interfere with the sleep pattern and thus cause headaches.
- A person who consumes excessive caffeine might get withdrawal symptoms on cutting down the intake. The symptoms include drowsiness, headaches, irritability, nausea and vomiting.
- Caffeine intake can lead to an increase in blood pressure. It might also aggravate heart problems or nervous disorders
- Large amounts of caffeine may decrease bone mass density, most likely by interfering with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. This may lead to osteoporosis.
- Most caffeinated beverages are high in calories. Excess intake may lead to obesity.
Effect of caffeine on children
- In children, caffeine takes more time to get broken down and eliminated from the body compared to adults increasing the availability and its possible negative effects on the body.
- Regular intake of caffeinated beverages may have a negative effect on the nutritional status of children especially if they replace food.
- Drinking too many sweetened caffeinated drinks could lead to dental cavities.
- Its intake has also been linked to hyperactivity in children.
Who should avoid caffeine?
- Those prone to stress, anxiety, frequent headaches or sleep problems
- Those suffering from acidity, high blood pressure
- Pregnant and nursing females. Caffeine travels through blood, crosses the placenta (contact point of mother and baby) and can have a negative effect on the baby.
How to cut back?
- Reduce caffeine gradually as abrupt decrease may cause withdrawal symptoms.
- Read labels of all processed foods / medicines / supplements for their caffeine content.
- Take a smaller serving whenever need be.
- Try decaffeinated tea and coffee or herbal tea.
- Brew your tea / coffee for less time.
There is no nutritional need for caffeine in our body and thus can be completely avoided. It is just a habit which can be changed if you want to or need to.
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