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7 Myths About Caffeine

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7 Myths About Caffeine

For many of us a morning without coffee or tea is a like the proverbial day without sunshine. For me much of it is about the ritual. Okay, who am I kidding? It’s about the caffeine. Mmm, I love caffeine–that naturally occurring alkaloid found in the leaves, seeds and fruits of more than 63 plant species worldwide. But at what risk do I indulge in my morning coffee and afternoon espresso?

Caffeine is most famous for its role as a stimulant and it’s ability to delay fatigue. I clearly get a boost of energy and clarity, as had been scientifically proven. But caffeine has also acquired a bad-boy reputation–an unfair one, perhaps? Extensive studies into its safety show that there are still many misconceptions about caffeine. Allow me to tackle some of the myths surrounding my beloved alkaloid.

Myth No. 1: Caffeine is addictive
Facts: Well, this depends on what you consider “addictive.” Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system, and regular use of caffeine might cause mild physical dependence–but caffeine doesn’t affect your life the way addictive drugs do, and thus most experts don’t consider caffeine dependence an addiction, per se. When regular caffeine consumption is quickly halted, some of us experience symptoms that last from one to several days–this can be avoided if caffeine consumption is reduced slowly.

If you try to stop cold turkey, you may experience one or more of these symptoms:

headache
fatigue
anxiety
irritability
depressed mood
difficulty concentrating

Next: Myth No. 2

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

567 comments

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8:47AM PDT on Aug 10, 2014

Informative, thank you :)

1:44PM PST on Feb 5, 2014

Thanks for sharing this! Coffee myths and facts are always so interesting to read.

1:41PM PST on Jan 27, 2014

interesting

11:41AM PST on Jan 27, 2014

coffee makes me tired

1:59PM PST on Dec 1, 2013

p.s. No, I'm not against coffee or tea, and drink them regularly (in moderation, of course! ;-).
I do agree that caffeine does have many benefits, especially in medications.

1:55PM PST on Dec 1, 2013

This article has a LOT of misinformation.
I am glad to see that a lot of readers have included corrections in their comments here, right back to some very knowledgeable ones in 2009.

Caffeine IS ADDICTIVE. I learned that from drinking Coke when I was 18 - a scary discovery! I'm sure all of you know people who are addicted to coffee. Not like heroin addicts, of course, but still a reality. And not everyone becomes addicted; we're all different.

A majority of Melissa's "facts" don't actually refute the myths. She repeats that caffeine "in moderation" is safe. But how many people you know do NOT drink coffee or cola in moderation? Because it is addictive, a lot of people consume very large amounts.

Thank you especially to the smart reader who debunked Melissa's "facts" about caffeine and alcohol. You make a lot of sense.

We're talking about a drug here. Everyone reacts differently. But don't you think that this drug has serious enough effects to be very careful about its consumption by children?

Luckily, a lot of us are experienced and knowledgeable enough to see through Melissa's rationalizations about caffeine consumption. I worry about the readers here who just say - Yeah, this is a great article because it says what I want to believe!

I've found the experiences related in the readers' comments fascinating. I encourage everyone to look up the real facts, to read opposing opinions and judge them by what you observe around you.

8:54AM PST on Dec 1, 2013

thank you

11:56PM PDT on Jun 29, 2013

There has always been endless debates of caffeine,especially in coffees....

Some may be respond to these effects, some may not.....Ultimately, it really depends on the health of each individual!

1:26AM PDT on May 20, 2013

Thanks.

7:39PM PDT on May 10, 2013

I usually have a nice cup of coffee before I go to bed. Most of the time I can't sleep without it. My bowels like there fair share of joe aswell....when I stop the 6 cups a day...my bowels say fine I won't go either. For you hard coffee drinkers out there try it, you'll see a difference in your bowel function.

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