Food Agriculture & Nutrition Network of Solano County
Written By: Kaithlyne Tran, Intern
Are you one of those people who can’t function without their daily dose of caffeine? As temperatures drop and seasonal caffeinated drinks make a comeback; we increase our caffeine intake to stay warm and energized. However, have you ever stopped to think about the impact caffeine has on your body? Let’s take a closer look at everyone’s favorite stimulant. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and has become a staple of our daily routine as we grab our cup (or cups). People who drink caffeine regularly may build tolerance and may not be as affected by side effects. Once consumed, our bodies absorb caffeine through our gut within 45 minutes. From there, caffeine is processed through the liver and can stay in our bloodstream for up to 9.5 hours! Now that you have a basic understanding of how caffeine digests in our bodies, let’s discuss the benefits and disadvantages.
Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, energy drinks, and even medications! With caffeine being easily accessible, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regards 400 milligrams of caffeine as safe for healthy adults to consume daily. Did you know that caffeine may help with weight loss? Temporarily decreasing appetite, caffeine is commonly found in weight loss supplements. Also, studies have shown that caffeine is connected to a lower risk of liver cancer and liver scarring since caffeine blocks adenosine, producing collagen that produces scar tissue. Additionally, an increased coffee intake may lead to a lower risk of gallstones as caffeine may trigger contractions in the gallbladder, increasing the flow of a hormone called cholecystokinin that quickens the digestion of fats. Studies on animals suggest that caffeine may protect against Parkinson’s disease since caffeine protects the brain from deterioration. Caffeine has the same effect as theophylline, a medication used to treat asthma. It relaxes the lung muscles and loosens bronchial tubes which makes breathing easier. Furthermore, there is evidence that consuming caffeine regularly may lower a person’s likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.
Before you start chugging down more coffee, let’s talk about the potential downsides. Consuming caffeine later in the day may impact sleep quality since caffeine may block a hormone called adenosine which is linked to deep sleep. People who consume higher doses of caffeine may experience symptoms of nervousness and an increased heart rate. If you are someone who experiences anxiety or panic attacks, consuming too much caffeine can trigger those symptoms. It is worth noting that caffeine can have an impact on women's fertility as it can decrease muscle activity in the fallopian tubes. For pregnant women, it is advisable to limit their caffeine intake to 200 milligrams per day as excessive consumption can result in elevated caffeine levels in the fetus, leading to reduced blood flow and oxygen levels which can increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight. Additionally, if you are taking medication, you should be mindful when drinking caffeine because it may not be as effective. If you have gout, an increased amount of caffeine may cause a gout attack. Lastly, caffeine negatively affects the circulatory system by increasing blood pressure and potentially impacting cardiac functions.
At the end of the day, it’s all about moderation. While caffeine can have some great benefits, it’s essential to be aware of the potential negative effects. So next time you reach for that cup of coffee, ask yourself – is it worth it? Listen to your body and make the best decision for you.
Caffeine | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Caffeine as a Factor Influencing the Functioning of the Human Body—Friend or Foe? - PMC (nih.gov)
Caffeine: Benefits, risks, and effects (medicalnewstoday.com)