Most of us are familiar with caffeine from the boost of energy we get from drinking a cup of coffee in the morning.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, caffeine is a bitter substance, which can be found in more than 60 different species of plants from around the world. But, that’s only the official definition of the word.
For most people, caffeine is what we use to help wake us up in the morning and it gets us ready for the rest of our day. That’s because caffeine is actually a drug that works as a psychoactive, central nervous system stimulant, which gives us a decent-sized boost of energy when we consume it.
Once a person consumes caffeine, it quickly makes its way into the bloodstream, where its full effects can be felt in as little as 10 to 15 minutes and can leave us buzzing with energy.
After that, the liver start to break down the drug, which means that it doesn’t take long before the caffeine buzz begins to wear off. That’s why it can perk us up so much when we first drink of cup of coffee, but it can also leave us with a bit of a crash afterward.
But if you’ve ever found yourself drinking cup after cup of coffee all day long, you might want to know that there are a few minor health risks when it comes to consuming caffeine.
According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking no more than 400 mgs of caffeine per day is perfectly safe for healthy adults. The study suggests that this is the equivalent of about four cups of coffee per day, but depending on where your coffee comes from, a cup won’t always contain the same amount of caffeine.
Still, instead of focusing on how much caffeine is actually in your cup of coffee, let’s take a look at the bigger caffeine picture.
The Health Benefits of Caffeine
Coffee has had a bad rep over the years and even today, many people talk about drinking coffee as a bad habit or a guilty pleasure. This namely because of the caffeine that’s consumed with it.
However, most studies show that caffeine doesn’t just perk you up, it can also offer a few great benefits to your health. While coffee itself has many healthy properties of its own, these studies looked specifically at the benefits of caffeine.
Boost Brain Power
One study on caffeine showed that when a person consumed 200 mg of caffeine after having studied several images, their memories were enhanced for the following 24 hours. This gives credence to the notion that caffeine can help improve your long-term memory.
Keeping Your Heart Healthy
Another study looked at more than 185,000 people between the ages of 45 and 75 and found that those who drank two to three cups of coffee per day were 18% less likely to die from heart disease or stroke, compared to those who don’t drink coffee at all.
More Energy at the Gym
When our bodies break down caffeine, it is transformed into a few healthy compounds, which can affect our blood flow, as well as our bodies’ fat burning abilities and oxygen capacity.
That being said, many people find that drinking a small cup of coffee before working out can make them feel more energetic and readier to exercise.
In a review published by the medical journal BMJ, analysts found that the consumption of coffee was linked to an 18% lower risk of developing cancer.
More specifically, the review found coffee consumption to mainly lower the odds of developing prostate, endometrial, and liver cancer, as well as melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers.
This is thought to be caused because coffee is rich in anti-inflammatory, disease-fighting antioxidants. Furthermore, caffeine itself has many antioxidant properties as well.
Read more about the health benefits of caffeine here.
Health Risks of Caffeine
As it is with anything, moderation is key when it comes to safely consuming caffeine. When you consume too much caffeine, you’re likely to experience a variety of short-term side effects such as intense migraines, nervousness and irritability, upset stomach, frequent urination, fast or irregular heartbeat, muscle tremors, as well as restlessness and insomnia. Therefore, it’s important to remember that everyone reacts to caffeine differently.
To avoid these uncomfortable side effects, it’s a good idea to know your limit and to avoid drinking coffee late at night, since it can take up to 6 hours for your body to eliminate half the amount of caffeine that you’ve consumed, which can negatively affect your sleep.
Another concern when it comes to caffeine is for pregnant women, or those who are nursing. In the past, it was thought that caffeine was off-limits for pregnant women, but today, doctors now recommend that they simply keep their caffeine intake below a certain limit to prevent complications such as low birth weight and pre-term birth.
So, if you’re pregnant, it’s best to speak with your physician about how much caffeine is safe for you and your baby.
Finally, while caffeine is associated with a decreased risk of developing diabetes, it’s a different story for those who already suffer from the disease.
Caffeine has also been known to affect a person’s insulin levels and can sometimes decrease their blood sugar levels. Especially for those who have type-2 diabetes, it’s important to speak with your doctor to make sure that it’s safe to be drinking coffee.