Caffeine: Sources, Health Benefits and Side Effects
What is Caffeine?
This is a stimulant that occurs naturally in coffee, cacao plants, and tea. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and the brain, promoting alertness and preventing fatigue or tiredness. The use of it dates back many centuries ago but it only hit the soft drinks market around 1800. Later, people started using it with energy drinks. Currently, over 75 percent of the world’s population are regular consumers of caffeinated products daily.
Best Sources of Caffeine
This stimulant can be found in high doses in certain types of foods, drinks, and medications. Naturally, it’s found in leaves, seeds, and nuts of some plants. Its normally extracted from plant-based sources and then processed for use with various beverages and foods. The best sources of caffeine include:
- Black Coffee
- Black Tea
- Energy drinks
- Chocolate milk
- Certain types of chewing gums etc.
How Caffeine Works
This is the most used type of stimulant globally. When caffeine is consumed, it gets absorbed into the bloodstream quickly. It’s thereafter taken to the liver where it’s broken down to various compounds which affect how different organs function. One of the main organs that it affects is the brain.
How Caffeine Affects the Brain
While in the brain, this stimulant affects the production of adenosine. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter which is associated with tiredness and caffeine usually blocks its effects. As you continue to engage in various activities during the day, the level of adenosine in the body continues to build up, causing you to get tired at the end of the day. This stimulant attaches itself to the adenosine neurotransmitters, slowing down their effects. As a result, an individual will end up remaining active.
Besides that, the stimulant also promotes the amount of adrenaline in blood, while increasing the activity of norepinephrine and dopamine. All these effects cause the brain to get stimulated. The result is that the consumer will end up feeling more aroused, focused and alert. Note that the effects of caffeine in the body can be felt within a short period of time. For instance, after consuming a cup of coffee, it only takes 20 minutes or less for it to reach the bloodstream.
Benefits of Caffeine
Billions of people worldwide depend on coffee as a morning booster. This stimulant has various health benefits and its effects can be witnessed within a couple of minutes. It has a profound effect on the consumer’s brain chemistry. Outlined below are the benefits of caffeine and its positive effects on the human body.
Increases Strength & Endurance
It’s mainly used by athletes to increase strength as well as endurance. It has anti-fatigue properties which mean that people who engage in anaerobic exercises can go on for long periods of time. It increases power output and physical strength. Besides that, the stimulant also increases the uptake of oxygen, leading to better performance.
It has been established that consuming a cup of caffeinated tea can improve moods by a couple of hours. A study conducted on a group of people found out that people who took caffeinated drinks were happy and less depressed. This could be as a result of caffeine’s effect on dopamine production.
Inhibits Weight Gain
This is one of the top benefits of caffeine. It stimulant is a common ingredient in most weight loss supplements. It increases energy levels in the body and the rate of metabolism. As a result, the stored fat in the body ends up being converted to fuel. It’s the oxidation of stored fat that leads to weight loss.
Promotes Brain Function
Studies have found that individuals who took caffeine drinks in the morning had better performance during the day. Caffeine promotes good memory and enhances focus as well as alertness. Besides that, it’s also used to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia which affect the memory. Drinking moderate amounts of caffeine daily can slow down and reduce the effects of these diseases.
Lowers the Effect of Type 2 Diabetes
Research studies show that caffeine can lower the risk of diabetes type 2. A study that was conducted on a group of women shows that consuming moderate amounts of caffeinated drinks can lower diabetes in middle-aged and younger women.
Prevents Parkinson’s disease
This stimulant is considered as a neuroprotective. Parkinson’s disease causes the degeneration of nerve cells. Caffeine inhibits the adenosine receptors and enhances the motor and mobility functions in patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. A study conducted on a group of patients with Parkinson’s disease show that taking a cup of caffeine daily can reduce bradykinesia.
This is a direct association between caffeinated drinks and cancer. It’s been established that those people who take caffeine had a reduced chance of contracting cancer by about 50 percent. It reduces the risk of liver cancer, skin cancer, colon cancer, mouth cancer, and throat cancer.
Relieves the Symptoms of Asthma
Medical studies show that caffeine can effectively open the airways. It relieves the symptoms of bronchitis which include breathlessness, coughing and wheezing. This is a beneficial aspect of caffeine especially in people with asthma. The effect of caffeine is also the same as that of theophylline, a drug that is used to treat asthma.
Caffeine Side Effects
As much as caffeine has a lot of benefits, it also has disadvantages. Although when it’s used in moderate amounts, it’s literally safe. The caffeine side effects can range from mild to serious. Excessive intake of caffeinated drinks and foods can sometimes lead to long-term health effects. The caffeine side effects include:
Stomach Upset and DehydrationThis stimulant increases the amount of acid in the stomach. It leads to heartburn and acidic influx, causing digestive discomfort. Because the body doesn’t store extra caffeine, and it’s processed by the liver and excreted through urine. The increased rate of urination leads to dehydration.
One of the serious caffeine side effects is heart disease. It can lead to irregular heartbeats as well as blood pressure. The stimulant makes the heart to work more than normal, leading to hypertension and other heart problems.
Pregnancy RiskPregnant women are usually advised against taking foods and drinks with too much caffeine. It’s absorbed into the placenta and it can cause an increase in heart rate. Additionally, it slows down the growth of the fetus and also increases the chances of miscarriage.
Reduced Born DensityLarge amounts of caffeine in the body may interfere with the absorption of calcium. It can cause osteoporosis i.e. bone thinning. Some people may end up with twitching muscles. Note that one of the caffeine side effects that most people experience is muscles ache.
Insulin SensitivityTaking caffeine especially in excess can lower insulin sensitivity. It’s noted that people who consume caffeinated drinks ended up with a much lower insulin sensitivity for a couple of hours. Caffeine causes increased production of catecholamines and fatty acids.it also causes less clearance of insulin in the liver, leading to a decreased sensitivity if insulin in the body.
InflammationWhile this stimulant can reduce the effects of inflammation in some people, it increases it in others. It causes an increased inflammation response when it comes to mental stress. Additionally, it also promotes the inflammatory response of the body during exercises.
AddictionAs much as the benefits of caffeine are numerous, a common side effect that people face is an addiction. Once you start taking caffeinated drinks, it’s difficult to stop. The stimulant usually triggers brain chemicals, in the same way as amphetamines and cocaine. It can easily lead to physical as well as psychological dependency.
Consuming large amount of this stimulant can cause a overdose. Technically, caffeine is termed as a drug. It’s found in soda, tea, and coffee and it’s a popular performance enhancer. It’s recommended that a healthy adult should take 400mg of caffeine per day while adolescent should take 100mg or less. Note that expectant women shouldn’t take more than 200 mg daily since it can affect the baby. Note that ingesting high amounts of this stimulant can lead to an overdose.
An overdose of caffeine can cause various types of side effects. Some symptoms may be witnessed immediately while others take time. In case of an overdose, a person may end up experiencing:
- Dehydration and increased thirst
There are also other serious symptoms that may need medical assessment. They include convulsions, vomiting, and confusion, breathing troubles, hallucinations, irregular heartbeat, shock, and uncontrolled body movements.
The benefits of caffeine are numerous. From increasing energy levels in the body to reducing the risk of certain diseases. Additionally, its effects can be witnessed for short and long term. However, the positive effects sometimes get diminished in the long-run as the body becomes tolerant. If you want to use it for weight loss, it’s important to use it in cycles in order to reduce tolerance buildup. You can do a 10-day on cycle and a 10-day off cycle. Overall, taking caffeine is good. But ensure that you take it in moderate amounts in order to avoid harmful side effects.