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What Caffeine Does to Your Body

Many of us depend on caffeine, and some people can’t even start the day without it. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, and some medications. The health impact of caffeine is a controversial topic, with advocates touting its brain-boosting capability and positive impact on chronic diseases, while critics warn of side effects including increased heart rate and insomnia. Which side is correct? Read on to find out.

The Benefits

Luckily for us caffeine lovers, the latest research shows more and more beneficial effects. They include:

  1. Short-term memory boost. Caffeine affects the areas of the brain associated with memory and concentration. While it’s not clear how long this effect lasts, research has shown enhanced memory for up to 24 hours after drinking caffeine, compared to people who did not consume any.
  2. Protection against degenerative brain diseases. Studies have linked caffeine intake to lower rates of Alzheimer’s, with coffee drinkers having up to a 65% less chance of developing the disease. Caffeine is also associated with decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease, with one showing those that drank four or five cups of coffee per day cut their risk in half.
  3. A healthier heart. In 2014, researchers analyzed 36 studies and found that people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had the lowest risk for heart disease. It’s not clear the exact mechanism of this protection, however, most studies used caffeinated coffee. A similar analysis looked at the risk of stroke and also showed that coffee can provide protection against stroke.
  4. Decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. Over two dozen studies have linked coffee consumption to lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Both regular and decaf coffee showed similar effects, however, there was stronger relationship between caffeinated coffee and lower risk of diabetes.
  5. Lower rates of depression among women. Depression affects twice as many women as men and is a chronic problem that can last for years. A study published in 2011 found decreased rates of depression among those who drank more caffeinated coffee.
  6. Enhanced focus and faster reaction time. Caffeine is a natural stimulant which activates our central nervous system. Within 20 minutes of consuming caffeine, you start to feel more alert with a better ability to concentrate, focus and react quickly.
  7. A better workout. The most widely used stimulant in the world, caffeine has been used as a natural ergogenic aid for years. It can improve endurance, decrease muscle pain, increase the number of calories burned, and can even help you enjoy exercise more.

The Drawbacks

The potential benefits of caffeine may be many, but that doesn’t mean that more caffeine is better. Caffeine affects people differently, and for those who are more sensitive to it, caffeine may cause anxiety, nervousness, or irritability. Higher doses of caffeine can negatively impact your quality of sleep and can cause insomnia. Caffeine can also raise blood pressure and heart rate. While this isn’t an issue for healthy people, it may be for those with underlying heart or blood pressure problems. If you are consuming more than 500mg per day (the equivalent of three to four cups of brewed coffee) or experiencing any adverse side effects, consider weaning down your caffeine intake. Avoid quitting cold turkey, as this can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Does the source matter?

In short: yes. While you can get your daily fix from coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, and even chocolate, this doesn’t give you the go ahead to add a daily chocolate bar to your diet (I wish!). Most caffeine research has been done using coffee and tea and while these drinks can provide benefits on their own, adding sugar or fat (in the form of milk or cream) can negate some of the caffeine’s benefits. The same goes for soda and energy drinks: along with caffeine, these beverages contain high amounts of added sugar, which has a host of negative health effects.

12 thoughts on “What Caffeine Does to Your Body”

  1. Wow…very good info! I love coffee and drink about 36 oz. per day. It sounds like the good outweighs the bad…so I’ll keep drinking coffee! Thanks for the article. I’ll be sharing this =D

  2. Thanks for the great article. God bless you and yours. in Christ, Allen.

  3. Thanks for the info! I lived in New Orleans for my entire life where coffee is almost as much of a staple as this city’s affinity for alcohol ! Hehe! I do not drink alcohol (have not for 30 years), but I drink at least 2 16oz cups of coffee a day every day for my entire life (56 Yrs.)! I also drink about 3 soft drinks per day (I know the sugar is bad), but I do not have high BP or Diabetes (that has been prevalent in my family history for 2 generations), my short and long term memory is excellent (actually almost total recall) and my only bout with any sort of depression was when my mother and father passed away within a little less than a 2 year period of each other (only child)! Additionally, I do find that it does stimulate my workouts (5 days a week) and I also walk 5 miles a day with my dog every day of the week religiously for the past 15 years ! So thank you for your info and as we say here in the Big Easy; ” Les Le Bon Ton Roulet” or for the rest of the country “Let The Good Times Roll”! I probably should have said, “Bottoms Up” to address the rest of the nation as a whole, pertaining to this article ! Hehe!

  4. Marg says:

    My husband and I love our coffee! We’ll keep drinking it!

  5. Eusopus says:

    Wow, your caffeine churning is excellent-Thank you! NY is a wonderful town. Enjoy, be well, “live long”. Continue these writings and discover universal treasures within the innermost sensibilities of your own feelings!

  6. BobLoblah says:

    28Oct16…..THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD BE PAYING ATTENTION TO:……..” The potential benefits of caffeine may be many, but that doesn’t mean that more caffeine is better. Caffeine affects people differently, and for those who are more sensitive to it, caffeine may cause anxiety, nervousness, or irritability. Higher doses of caffeine can negatively impact your quality of sleep and can cause insomnia. Caffeine can also raise blood pressure and heart rate. While this isn’t an issue for healthy people, it may be for those with underlying heart or blood pressure problems. If you are consuming more than 500mg per day (the equivalent of three to four cups of brewed coffee) or experiencing any adverse side effects, consider weaning down your caffeine ”
    In the long run, anything ‘ outside ‘ of water is NO good for you…….Go figure…

  7. kg says:

    I love my coffee no matter what time of day..Thanks for the article, bless you. omg

  8. Phil says:

    It’s probably not just the caffeine that is healthy (in moderation). Both dark chocolate and coffee are full of bio-flavonoids and anti-oxidants that help keep cells healthy, especially the vascular system. This is likely why they help prevent heart disease, stroke and vascular dementias. Eating one or two ounces of dark chocolate per day has been shown to significantly reduce risk of heart disease. Unfortunately the same effects haven’t been found with milk chocolate.

    1. Hi Phil, it’s still not totally clear where the specific benefits are coming from, but I agree, there is probably more to the health benefits than just the caffeine.

  9. Robert says:

    While this article is ok pointing out some of the so called benefits my cardiologist and neurologist would disagree with the amount of coffee to be consumed. As they both pointed out to me and other patients caffeine is ok in moderation 1 to 2 cups per day. I have hand tremors for which my neurologist treats me with medication so when I fill up my coffee cup in the morning it helps to keep most of the liquid inside the cup rather than on my shirt, pants, table or floor. The author of this article is a dietitian not a medical doctor. Our bodies and tolerance to foods, beverages and medications change as we age. My recommendation would be to consult your physician on this article.

  10. Shane says:

    I’d just like to point out that in order to consume the same amount of caffeine as a single cup of coffee, 1.7 lbs of chocolate would need to be consumed.

    1. Hi Shane, most brewed coffee has about 150mg of caffeine per 8oz cup. Most 70% dark chocolate bars have around 80mg per bar, so about as much as half a cup of coffee. It will vary from brand to brand, but the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine.

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