Author: Meghana S Nair
Who doesn’t enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning? Or at midday? Or in the middle of the night? Coffee has spread around the world to become one of the most consumed drinks in the world. It is considered a breakfast drink and many people reach for a cup of coffee immediately after raising. They claim that they are not fully awake until they’ve had their morning cup of coffee because of it’s well known stimulating properties and its ability to provide an energy boost. Whereas some people drink coffee every day to enjoy its unique flavor notes and its rich aroma.
For years, doctors warned people to avoid coffee saying it causes a lot of health issues from stunting your growth to causing heart diseases and cancer. But recent research indicates that coffee may not be so bad after all and even the World Health Organization (WHO) has taken coffee off the possible carcinogen list. And there’s increasing evidence that coffee might be good for you.
Coffee contains several useful nutrients that can benefit our body in many ways, including vitamin B2, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants. Coffee also contains polyphenols, a type of antioxidant which can help rid the body of free radicals, a type of waste product that the body naturally produces as a result of certain processes, they are toxic and may cause inflammation. Antioxidants are also known to fight the oxidative damage that can cause cancer and some studies have found a lower risk of colon, uterine and liver cancer among coffee drinkers.
Coffee decreases your insulin sensitivity and impairs glucose tolerance, therefore reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes. It keeps the blood vessels flexible and healthy, reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases like a heart attack or stroke.
It is widely known that coffee mainly contains caffeine – a natural stimulant. Some studies have associated caffeine consumption with positive effects on the brain. It acts as a central nervous stimulant, by blocking the neurotransmitter adenosine’s receptors, increasing excitability in the brain that people feel more alert and energetic. It was shown to improve mental performance on a range of different tasks where people feel more productive. More recent research found that consuming caffeine may boost long term memory.
Caffeine is quickly absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream and it travels to the liver from there, where it is broken down into compounds that can affect the function of various organs, but its main effect is on the brain. Caffeine reaches peak levels in the body about an hour after consumption but you may continue to feel these stimulating effects for up to six hours.
When the adenosine levels build up in your body over the day, you will feel more tired and want to go to sleep. Caffeine functions by blocking the effects of adenosine, connecting to the receptors in the brain without activating them. In turn, leading to reduced tiredness and increase in blood adrenaline levels, this immediately stimulates the brain and promotes a state of arousal, alertness, and focus. Since it mainly affects your brain, caffeine is often referred to as a psychoactive drug.
No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health but it is important to note that coffee intake is just one of many factors that can affect your health as it contains a psychoactive drug named caffeine. Caffeine crosses the blood-brain barrier acting as a stimulant by activating the central nervous system. However, ingesting caffeine in high doses may lead to more harmful effects on health.
Caffeine is an important feature of coffee but coffee does not equal caffeine as it also contains water, antioxidants, and many other compounds. The average caffeine content of 40mg per 100 grams or 94.8 mg per cup is present making coffee as one of the most popular ways to consume caffeine. There are different ways of drinking it which makes it difficult to determine exactly how coffee affects a person and which components have which benefits and risks. A person who wishes to derive health benefits from coffee should not exceed the recommended moderate intake of three to four cups per day and try to monitor the ingredients they add, such as sugar, cream, or flavorings, as these may not be healthy. But pregnant women, children, people with high cholesterol or caffeine sensitivity, are advised to pay attention to coffee drinking.
The effects of caffeine on the mind and body also differ between people. Some people are sensitive to caffeine, while others can drink many cups per day without any side effects. Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. The slow metabolizers of caffeine get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel wired for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half of the fast metabolizers of caffeine get energy, increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later. It all depends on your body’s amazing ability to adapt to long-term caffeine use.
The way caffeine stimulates the brain, boosts energy, improve metabolism, mental performance, elevate cortisol levels (your stress hormone) usually decrease with long-term caffeine use. But if you frequently have half a dozen cups or more, you could be setting yourself up for some serious health complications which are mentioned below;
Caffeine is known to increase alertness. However, at higher doses, these effects may become more pronounced, leading to anxiety and nervousness, especially among people with panic disorder or social anxiety disorder.
Caffeine’s ability to help people stay awake is one of its most prized qualities. It can help you stay awake during the day, but it may negatively impact your sleep quality and quantity. On the other hand, too much caffeine can make it difficult to get enough restorative sleep leading to insomnia.
3. Digestive issues
The caffeine within coffee may have a laxative effect as it induces bile production which in turn increases bowel movements. Many people find that a morning cup of coffee helps get their bowels moving. Given this effect, the high doses of caffeine can increase peristalsis, the contractions that move food through your digestive tract which may lead to loose stools or even diarrhea in some people.
Caffeine triggers certain brain chemicals which stimulate pleasant sensations that cause it to become a source of comfort on a regular basis, similar to the way cocaine and it may lead to psychological or physical dependency, especially at high dosages. Despite all of caffeine’s health benefits, there’s no denying that it may become habit-forming. But habit is not the same as addiction. The World Health Organization has stated that there is no evidence to suggest that caffeine use has comparable physical and social consequences of addiction.
5. Withdrawal symptoms
When people abstain from caffeine consumption, they experience withdrawal symptoms like headache, reduced alertness, fatigue and irritability in some regular caffeine consumers but these are generally not severe and of short duration. However, the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal can be avoided altogether if caffeine intake is decreased progressively.
For billions of people around the planet, coffee is fuel for the daily grind. People should be mindful that they are consuming a psychoactive substance when they use caffeine. If you use a lot of caffeine, drinking the equivalent of more than three cups of tea or coffee per day can directly affect your health whereas lowering your intake is worth considering. Because it all comes down to drinking in moderation while monitoring the effect on your body.
Caffeine is unlikely to produce harmful effects in most people and reactions to the stimulant like caffeine depends on individual factors such as genetics and accompanying lifestyle choices. But if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the rules are different so it’s important to check with your obstetrician before adding caffeine into your diet.
The best approach is to gradually taper your caffeine consumption. Doing this lowers your dependence gradually while minimizing the negative effects of withdrawal. You should know your own limit or tolerance to caffeine and adjust accordingly. The bottom line is moderation is the key. And sipping coffee in reasonable amounts just might be one of the healthiest things you can do.