What is caffeine? 8 myths about caffeine with health

I have previously discussed Caffeine in many of my articles on Kim Coffee, and the article “Coffee drunk: Causes, symptoms and treatment” is probably the most explicit.

Behind the sweetness and exhilaration that coffee offers, there lies a mysterious “agent” that has intrigued human curiosity for thousands of years – caffeine.

What is Caffeine?

Chances are, at least once in our lives, we have felt and enjoyed the alertness, mental sharpness, or increased energy from consuming caffeine. But do we really understand the effects and influence of this stimulant on our body and mind?

Right now, on Kim Coffee and in this very article, I will share everything I know and understand about Caffeine – from what it is, to the caffeine content in coffee, tea, etc., to its effects, and dispelling common misconceptions about it.

Let’s begin!

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is an organic compound with the chemical formula C8H10N4O2. It belongs to the group of alkaloids known as methylxanthines. This natural neural stimulant is found in several plants, such as coffee, tea, cocoa (chocolate), and other foods.

This is a concept I present leaning heavily towards chemistry!

To put it simply:

“Caffeine is a substance found in coffee, tea, and some other drinks, as well as in cocoa (chocolate). It is a natural stimulant capable of making you feel alert, awake, and enhance concentration. It is commonly used to reduce fatigue and improve mental performance.”

What is Caffeine

It works by inhibiting a series of chemical reactions in the body, specifically inhibiting a substance called adenosine.

Adenosine typically binds to adenosine receptors in the brain and contributes to feelings of sleepiness and relaxation. When caffeine binds to these receptors, it impedes this inhibitory process, creating a state of alertness and wakefulness.

However, overuse of caffeine can lead to side effects such as anxiety, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, and discomfort. Additionally, consuming too much can lead to dependence and harm your health.

The safe amount of caffeine to consume daily varies from person to person, but within normal limits, it is considered a stimulant that can be reasonably used to improve alertness and concentration.

What effects does caffeine have?

Caffeine is commonly used to reduce fatigue and improve mental alertness. It is a key ingredient in many pain relief and cold medications, as well as in alcoholic soft drinks and energy beverages.

It is a stimulant of the central nervous system (CNS) and can affect the brain by enhancing neural signal transmission, thereby improving focus, alertness, and reducing fatigue.

What effects does caffeine have

As I’ve mentioned, caffeine is a stimulant, and like any stimulant, its benefits and harms go hand in hand.

Using caffeine as an aid for alertness should only be done occasionally and in reasonable amounts. Excessive use can lead to side effects such as anxiety, sleep disturbances, irregular heartbeat, and caffeine dependence.

Relying on caffeine can impact sleep!

Adequate and quality sleep is very important for health and mental well-being. If there are sleep issues or frequent feelings of fatigue, it’s advisable to explore the underlying causes and discuss with a doctor for appropriate solutions.

How much caffeine per day is okay?

I learned about the caffeine content from a compilation by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) – an authoritative agency under the Health portfolio of the Australian Government. The approximate caffeine content per serving includes:

  • Chocolate drinks: 5–10mg per 250ml
  • Instant coffee: 80–120mg per 250ml
  • Drip or brewed coffee: 150–240mg per 250ml
  • Espresso or latte: 105–110mg per 250ml
  • Decaffeinated coffee: 2–6mg per 250ml
  • Black tea: 65–105mg per 250ml
  • Cola beverages: 40–49mg per 375ml
  • Red Bull energy drink: 80mg per 250ml
  • Energy drink: 160mg per 250ml
  • Dark chocolate bar: 40-50mg per 55g serving
  • Milk chocolate bar – 10mg per 50g serving

Yes, these are the types of food items I have listed, which are commonly consumed in our daily lives.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regards caffeine both as a drug and a food additive. They recommend a maximum intake of 400 mg per day.

Based on these figures, it’s important to balance the daily intake of caffeine to ensure our body remains in the best possible condition.

Questions about the issue “Caffeine and health?”

Caffeine is indeed present in coffee! I have also previously mentioned the numerous health benefits of coffee.

However, many people do not enjoy drinking coffee!

And, of course, misconceptions and rumors about caffeine are among the reasons why some people avoid coffee.

Is caffeine good for health?

I simply think this way: if caffeine were harmful to health, coffee probably wouldn’t be a world-renowned beverage at the present time :))).

The health benefits of caffeine have been proven through research, as evidenced by some international publications I have listed below:

  • American Heart Association (AHA): The American Heart Association published an article in the journal “Circulation” in 2017 emphasizing that caffeine consumption could reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, AHA also highlighted that caffeine intake should be moderate and not relied upon to improve cardiovascular health.
  • British Journal of Sports Medicine: A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2018 showed that caffeine could enhance physical performance and reduce the feeling of fatigue in physical activities like running and training.
  • According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) USA: Caffeine as a protective factor against memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease…
  • Journal of Pain: A study published in the Journal of Pain in 2017 indicated that caffeine could enhance the effectiveness of certain pain relief medications when used in combination.
  • Current Neuropharmacology: An article in Current Neuropharmacology in 2017 reviewed the role of caffeine in brain protection and its effectiveness in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Is caffeine an addictive substance?

When discussing, it often brings to mind its addictive properties, which many people are misled about, and I was no exception before I researched coffee.

It’s established that caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and regular use can lead to mild physical dependence.

However, caffeine does not threaten your physical health, social, or economic well-being in the way that addictive drugs do. (Although, after seeing your monthly expenditures at coffee shops, you might disagree!)

If you suddenly stop consuming caffeine, you may experience symptoms for a day or more, especially if you consume 2 or more cups of coffee daily. Common symptoms of “caffeine withdrawal” include:

  • Headache
  • Tired
  • Worry
  • Irritability
  • Depressed mood
  • Difficulty concentrating

Withdrawing from caffeine can last a few days with unpleasant feelings. However, caffeine does not cause the same level of severe addiction as alcohol or drugs. For this reason, experts do not consider caffeine dependence to be a form of addiction.

I have listed some references and studies from international centers for your reference:

  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified caffeine as a non-addictive substance in its regulations. The addictive potential of caffeine is considered minor and does not pose a significant risk of dependency like stronger stimulants.
  • World Health Organization (WHO): The World Health Organization published a report in 2016 on “Other addictive substances: assessing the addictive potential of caffeine.” In this report, WHO determined that caffeine only creates a minor level of dependence and does not classify caffeine as an addictive substance.
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The United States National Institute on Drug Abuse also provides information that caffeine does not create strong dependency and does not have the addictive potential of other strong stimulants like nicotine or drugs.

Can caffeine cause insomnia?

Here are a few studies I’ve read through:

  • National Sleep Foundation: The National Sleep Foundation states that caffeine can decrease sleep quality and make waking up in the morning more difficult.
  • Sleep Medicine Reviews: A study evaluated the impact of caffeine on sleep and concluded that consuming caffeine in the evening can reduce total sleep time, prolong sleep onset, and decrease sleep quality.
  • Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: Another study analyzed 785 people and concluded that individuals consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime experienced difficulties with sleep and had shorter sleep durations compared to those who did not consume caffeine in the evening.
  • Sleep Health: Another study examined the impact of caffeine on over 4,000 individuals and concluded that consuming caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime is associated with shorter sleep duration and difficulty waking up in the morning.

The impact of caffeine on sleep depends on when you consume it.

Your body quickly absorbs caffeine but also eliminates it rapidly. Caffeine is primarily processed through the liver and remains in the body for several hours. However, for most people, 1-2 cups of coffee in the morning will not affect their night’s sleep.

However, consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening can impact sleep. If you’re like most people, your sleep won’t be affected if you avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime.

The sensitivity to caffeine can vary from person to person.

Does caffeine increase the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer?

I mentioned earlier that the maximum consumption limit is 400 mg per day for healthy adults. However, some people are more susceptible to its effects, including those with high blood pressure or the elderly.

Osteoporosis and Caffeine

At high levels (over 744 mg/day), caffeine can increase the loss of calcium and magnesium in urine. But recent studies have shown that it does not increase the risk of osteoporosis, especially if you consume enough calcium.

You can compensate for the lost calcium by adding just two tablespoons of milk to a cup of coffee.

osteoporosis and caffeine

The National Center for Biotechnology Information in the United States has conducted studies on Osteoporosis and caffeine

The amount of caffeine consumed by a sample of white women is not a significant risk factor for osteoporosis. However, in older women, who have diminished calcium balance performance, high caffeine intake may lead to loss of cortical bone, pelvic bone, etc.

Older adults may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine on calcium metabolism. If you are an older woman, consider limiting your daily caffeine intake..

Cardiovascular Disease and Caffeine

A study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology showed that moderate coffee consumption (2-3 cups per day) is associated with a reduced risk of developing heart disease and stroke, as well as a lower risk of death from all causes in individuals without cardiovascular disease. Additionally, coffee consumption was not found to be associated with an increased risk of arrhythmias.

Cardiovascular Disease and Caffeine

According to a recent study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the United States on the relationship between Caffeine and cardiovascular disease:

Regular coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of developing hypertension, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation. However, the results are not consistent regarding coffee consumption and the risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Most studies show a J-shaped relationship, where moderate coffee consumption leads to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, and high coffee consumption leads to an increased risk. Furthermore, boiled or unfiltered coffee has more cafestol than filtered coffee, which can affect cholesterol levels.

It’s very difficult to read these studies, for me. But things seem to be moving in a good direction.

Cancer and caffeine

Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in many beverages such as coffee, tea, and some soft drinks. Its consumption has been a subject of research regarding its potential impact on cancer risk and outcomes.

According to the Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (ON DPG): For most types of cancer, coffee appears to either decrease the risk of cancer or have no effect on cancer risk at all.

Also, as per the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the United States regarding Cancer and Caffeine:

Cancer and caffeine

Among coffee drinkers, there is a slightly reduced risk of liver cell cancer and possibly breast cancer. These effects generally appear with moderate coffee consumption, about 2 cups per day.

For the risk of stomach and colorectal cancer, recent studies suggest an increased risk associated with drinking more than 6.5 cups of coffee per day, especially evident among the U.S. population.

It is important to note that research on the relationship between caffeine and cancer is ongoing, and some studies have produced conflicting results. Moreover, the impact of caffeine on cancer risk and outcomes may vary based on individual factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and overall health status.

Is caffeine harmful for women who are planning to become pregnant?

According to the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information, USA) regarding the relationship between Caffeine and pregnant women:

There is increasingly strong evidence from both epidemiological and animal studies indicating the harms of maternal exposure to caffeine during pregnancy, even at levels previously considered ‘safe.’

Is caffeine harmful for women who are planning to become pregnant

Also, according to the medical journal BMJ on Caffeine and pregnant women:

Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should be advised to avoid caffeine, as evidence suggests that maternal caffeine consumption is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes and there is no safe level of consumption.

Does caffeine cause dehydration in the body?

According to a study on the dehydrating potential of Caffeine by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, USA:

Coffee does not cause dehydration when provided at a moderate dose of 4 mg/kg caffeine BW in four cups per day. Therefore, these data suggest that coffee, when consumed in moderation by men accustomed to caffeine usage, contributes to meeting daily fluid needs and does not adversely affect fluid balance.

Does caffeine cause dehydration in the body

Caffeine may stimulate a diuretic effect. However, the fluid consumed in caffeinated beverages tends to offset the dehydration effect of increased urination.

The key point is that while caffeine acts as a mild diuretic, studies show that moderate consumption of caffeinated beverages does not actually cause dehydration.

Does caffeine harm children?

According to the Irving Medical Center at Columbia University:

Children, particularly during their development stages, thrive with routines such as regular waking, napping (if younger), and bedtime schedules. They also require scheduled meals with healthy food, opportunities for play and interaction with other children and adults, and chances to grow and learn as well as practice new skills.

Caffeine consumption not only hinders normal development (absorption of skills, emotional and social health, etc.), but it can also cause side effects that may have long-term health consequences if the child also has underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, or anxiety disorders.

Does caffeine harm children

Key point: Caffeine has no nutritional value but comes with numerous side effects that negatively impact health.

Some children are sensitive to caffeine, leading to temporary increases in anxiety or irritability.

Moreover, most of the caffeine consumed by children is in soft drinks, energy drinks, or sweetened teas, all of which have high sugar content. This empty calorie intake increases the risk of obesity in children.

Even if caffeine itself is not harmful, other substances in caffeinated beverages are often not good for children.

Can caffeine help with alertness?

In fact, research indicates that people only think caffeine helps them stay alert.

For instance, individuals who consume caffeine along with alcohol believe they are fit to sit behind the wheel. However, the truth is that their reaction time and judgment abilities are still impaired.

College students who drink both alcohol and caffeine are actually more likely to be involved in car accidents.

Can caffeine help with alertness

So, I have finished discussing Caffeine – an intriguing stimulant with a strong presence in our daily lives. It is not just an ingredient in coffee, tea, and many other drinks but also a part of modern culture and lifestyle.

From keeping us alert and enhancing work performance to providing moments of relaxation while enjoying the flavor of a delicious cup of coffee, Caffeine has truly become a familiar and reliable companion in our daily life.

However, sometimes it’s important to remember that Caffeine is not a miracle cure and cannot solve all problems. We should use it wisely and consider our health.

Lastly, remember that Caffeine is a great drink, but what’s more important is maintaining a happy spirit, responsibility, and balance in life. Enjoy every special moment of life, with both Caffeine and the simple joys it cannot replace.

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