Is caffeine good or bad for your health? It may come down to who you are and what your health is like. Before you decide if that coffee, tea, or energy drink habit is right for you, consider the following 10 things you really need to know about caffeine:
The Sliding Caffeine Threshold
Everyone is different and so is our caffeine-tolerance. One person’s perfect amount is another person’s nerve-rattling, hand-shaking, can’t-sleep-at-night amount. What’s right for you depends on many factors like whether you metabolize caffeine slowly (it stays in your system longer), whether you’re on medications that slow the rate of caffeine metabolism (such as the birth control pill which tends to double your jolt), whether you suffer from a nervous system disorder or insomnia, if you’re petite or big-built, are pregnant or whether you’re a smoker.
Decaf vs. No-Caffeine
You might be inclined to think that decaffeinated coffee is always free of caffeine, but that’s just not the case. Decaf coffee still contains some caffeine; it is simply caffeinated coffee that is processed to remove a large percentage of the caffeine.
The average person consumes 300 mg of caffeine, which most doctors consider moderate consumption. Every cup of coffee or tea tends to differ in the exact amount of caffeine. Starbucks coffee, for example, tends to contain about 20 milligrams of caffeine per ounce, so a 16-ounce coffee provides 320 milligrams, which is more than the average daily recommended amount.
Medical Students Hopped Up on Energy Drinks
While we tend to think of caffeine as increasing our energy, in a study of over 900 medical students, researchers found that of those who drank caffeine-containing energy drinks, 29% experienced increased weight gain and 32% experienced increased overall fatigue over students who didn’t drink energy drinks.
The Caffeine-Alzheimer’s Link
In a Florida-based study researchers found that women who drank three cups of coffee daily had reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Drink Up to Reduce Inflammation
In an animal study, researchers found that caffeine supplementation combined with moderate swimming, reduced inflammation. Another study at the University of Illinois showed that caffeine may block brain inflammation linked with brain diseases.
Ditch the Caffeine While Expecting
There’s controversy over the role of caffeine consumption and pregnancy, but staying away from the java may be a good idea anyway. In a study of children born to pregnant women who ingested caffeine, the caffeine-exposed babies had signs of impaired growth, including low birth weight.
Natural Born Slacker? Cut the Caffeine
Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, studied the effects of caffeine on rats after first assessing their natural motivation levels. They found that the natural “workers” started slacking off after consuming caffeine. The natural born “slackers” remained slackers regardless of caffeine ingestion. Caffeine could not motivate them. While the results may or may not translate to humans, if you’re trying to encourage someone to “get the job done” you might want to buy them a coffee after the task is completed. The study is scheduled for publication in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
The Gender Factor
Scientists studying the way caffeine affects people made an interesting discovery: Higher caffeine consumption was associated with decreased risk of diabetes in men and an increased risk in women. So caffeine consumption and its effects even depend on gender.
The Female Cancer Connection
Women who drank 4 cups of coffee daily had a 25% reduction in endometrial cancer.
The Caffeine-Skin Cancer Link
In another study mice fed caffeine developed 27% fewer skin cancer growths after UV exposure. Combining the caffeine with exercise resulted in 62% reduction in tumors. The researchers believe the results will translate to people as well.
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