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How Harmful Actually Is Caffeine?

How Harmful Actually Is Caffeine?

Caffeine is the new tobacco. We used to be constantly consuming it, not knowing the effects. However, now we are becoming more aware of the side effects of excess caffeine, people are going above and beyond to ditch it. Is caffeine really that harmful?

What Is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a stimulant obtained from over 60 different types of plants worldwide. It’s considered the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world. Caffeine functions by blocking the effects of adenosine, which is a neurotransmitter that relaxes the brain and makes you feel tired. Normally, adenosine levels build up over the day, making you increasingly more tired throughout the day. Caffeine helps you stay awake by connecting to adenosine receptors in the brain. This blocks the effects of adenosine, leading to reduced tiredness.

On average in the UK, we drink nearly 123 million cups of black tea per day, each cup containing about 40 mg of caffeine, but more if the tea is left to brew longer. Coffee is almost as popular with 90 million cups of coffee consumed a day.

Caffeine's Positive Effects

One of the main reasons that people consume caffeine is to reduce fatigue and drowsiness almost instantly. Caffeine has also been found to lower suicide risk by 45% due to caffeines stimulant effect which helps to boost people’s mood. There has also been a link between coffee and reducing the risk of Alzheimer's and Dementia, lowered risk of stroke and lower risk of oral cancer.

Caffeine's Negative Effects

However, caffeine didn’t get its bad rep from nowhere as it also has side effects for some people. Some people can experience; heartburn, irritability, headaches, rapid heartbeat and more. However, most of these side effects come from either too much caffeine consumption or withdrawals after drastically cutting back.

Caffeine in large amounts may also interfere with absorption of calcium into our bones. This can contribute to bone thinning (osteoporosis) as we grow older .If you consume too much, caffeine may cause also your muscles to twitch or ache after withdrawal.

Caffeine is often avoided by pregnant women. Caffeine travels within the bloodstream and crosses into the placenta. Since it’s a stimulant, it can cause your baby’s heart rate and metabolism to increase. Too much caffeine can also cause slowed fetal growth and increased risk of miscarriage. In most cases, a little caffeine is safe during pregnancy. However, caffeine doesn’t have to be completely avoided. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should limit caffeine consumption between 200 and 300 milligrams per day if you’re trying to get pregnant. If you’re pregnant, you could try switching to green tea as an alternative from your usual coffee or black tea due to its extremely low caffeine rate.

The verdict

So is it worth completely avoiding caffeine all together? Some people do not react well to caffeine however, for the majority of people, consuming some caffeine is completely safe and ditching it all together is completely unnecessary. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) consider a daily intake of 400 mg of caffeine as safe. This means that 2-4 strong cups of coffee a day would be completely safe therefore, the odd cup of tea or coffee is fine. If you are still cautious of consuming caffeine, why not switch the green tea? Green tea can have anywhere from 25 mg-50 mg per serving compared to the 80 mg-200 mg in a cup of coffee. 

Ultimately, how much caffeine consumed is completely up to each individual. We all have different tolerances and react to it differently. Caffeine has neither been proven a completely good or completely bad thing therefore, the best thing would be to work out how it affects you and make sure you are under the 400 mg daily intake recommendation.

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