Caffeine…Is it Good or Bad for You? The Lowdown on Caffeine

June 15th, 2011

Nine out of 10 people consume caffeine every day. The main sources of this caffeine are: coffee, tea, chocolate and sodas.  The average person gets about 280 mg/day of caffeine from the sources, which is the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee.

Most of us have heard conflicting information as to whether or not caffeine is “good or bad” for us.  After reading this article, you will learn that the health “benefits” of caffeine seem to far out-weight any negative things you may have read about it.*

*It should be noted that the benefits described below were associated with, coffee, as the source of caffeine.  Therefore it is possible that some of the benefits described below come about as a result of “other” compounds found in coffee and not the caffeine. This seems to be the case for Type 2 diabetes decreased risk.  Both caffeinated and non-caffeinated coffees seem to have helped.

The Good:

1-    Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant.  It increase your metabolic rate and the number of calories your burn (but not near as much as exercise.)

2-   Short-term it can increase your mental focus.

3-    Can help asthma patients to breathe better

4-   Taken before exercise, can enhance performance

5-    Men have a 40% reduced risk of developing gallstones when ingesting caffeine

6-   May reduce risk of developing Parkinson’s disease

7-    May reduce risk of colon cancer

8-     May reduce risk of liver cirrhosis

9-     May reduce risk of tooth decay

10-  May reduce risk of developing Type 2 diabetes but it may be another ingredient in the coffee and not the caffeine that conveys this benefit

11-  May reduce the risk of developing dementia

12-  May improve heart artery function and increased blood flow

 

The Bad:

1-    Caffeine can increase blood pressure for several hours after ingestion

2-   Can cause nervousness

3-    May increase the number of migraines experienced in chronic sufferers

4-   Cause or worsen heartburn

5-    May cause insomnia

6-   May increase risk of arthritis (rheumatoid)

7-    Though other compounds in coffee may reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, for people already diagnosed, the caffeine can increase blood sugar levels.

The Bottom Line:

The health benefits of “moderate caffeine” consumption (250-400 mg/day) are potentially significant.  By keeping your caffeine ingestion at this level you get all of the potential health benefits and reduce the risk of some of the negative side-effects from occurring.

But, for those of you suffering with chronic migraines, caffeine presents a real problem!  Many sufferers report that ingesting caffeine actually helps with their current, short-term, migraine pain.  But, the problem with using caffeine is that it is known to cause an increase in the number of migraines you experience.

Though it is controversial if one can become “addicted” to caffeine,  it is clear that many people become dependent upon it and that there are definite withdrawal symptoms that occur when people try to eliminate it, after using it for a long time.

The symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Difficultly concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Muscle pain or stiffness

Chronic migraine sufferers will experience a significant improvement in their migraines if they withdraw caffeine from their diets. But to get this benefit you have to be willing to deal with the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.  THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT THESE SYMPTOMS WILL LAST FOR ONLY 2-9 DAYS AND THAT IF YOU WITHDRAW GRADUALLY, YOU MAY NOT EXPERIENCE THEM AT ALL OR ONLY SLIGHTLY.

Curt Hendrix, M.S., C.C.N, C.N.S.,

* For more information about chronic migraines and preventing their occurrence, please go to ( http://www.migrelief.com/)

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