With a Starbucks on every corner, a Keurig on our counters, and energy drinks quietly stashed in the back of our refrigerators, caffeine has become an almost immoveable part of our day-to-day lives. In fact, statistics claim that around 90% of the world’s population consumes caffeine in one way or another. Whether you believe a heavy-handed statistic like that or not, there’s no doubt that caffeine rules a good chunk of modern culture. From coffee dates in budding relationships to Red Bull-powered gaming all-nighters, caffeine is here to stay. And, secretly, we love it. But we also hate it, and there are some pretty good reasons why. Let’s take a look at our longtime friend and foe, caffeine.
I Don’t Even Drink Coffee
You’re still probably consuming caffeine, even if you’re staunchly anti-coffee. Caffeine is a compound that can be naturally derived from over 60 plant sources, including tea leaves, cacao seeds, and coffee beans. It can also be artificially created. Caffeine can be found in common consumables like chocolate, tea, coffee, soda drinks, certain pharmaceuticals, and now even in stranger things like jelly beans and chewing gum (much to the FDA’s dismay). To completely avoid caffeine, you’d have to sacrifice a good many things in your regular diet.
But I Like My Diet
Don’t worry. If you’re not actively gulping down cup after cup of coffee, tea, or Red Bull, your caffeine consumption isn’t really a concern. However, for those of you who get that itch for your Starbucks fix, you may be tossing down one too many mocha frappucinos a day. Caffeine is a psychoactive drug that works by stimulating your central nervous system in order to combat fatigue and to improve concentration and even mood. Caffeine also notably has ramifications for your digestive system, your circulatory system, and your skeletal system.
Why We Hate It
Caffeine consumption has some well-known and some not so well-known effects on your body that are negative. If you have too much caffeine included in your daily diet, you may see some of the following:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased amount of stomach acid leading to heartburn or upset stomach
- Interference with absorption and metabolism of calcium
- Caffeine dependence leading to addiction
Because of its psychoactive nature, you can experience caffeine withdrawals if you consume too much of it on a regular basis and then attempt to quit cold-turkey. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, nausea, irritability, fatigue, depression, and (unfortunately) more.
Why We Love It
But we do love our caffeine, and there are certainly reasons for that, as well. In both recent and past studies, caffeine has shown the potential to:
- Reduce the risk of liver cancer
- Reduce the risk of mouth and throat cancer
- Reduce the risk of suicide in adults
- Reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Boost long-term memory
- Protect against Parkinson’s Disease
- Improve mood and concentration
Anyone suffering from an especially bleary and dreary morning can attest to the rays of sunshine that caffeine might offer them in an instant. For long-term users, caffeine has also been accredited with other important benefits like the ones listed above.
So What’s the Trick?
Moderation is the word of the day. It is generally agreed upon that 400 milligrams of caffeine is a healthy amount for the average adult to consume in one day, while 600 milligrams is too much. The lack of caffeine-focused labeling on drinks can make it difficult to figure out just how many milligrams you’re consuming, and it varies significantly from drink to drink. Two to three cups of coffee a day will probably do it for you, you average adult, and those cups should only be around 8 ounces each (not the gargantuan monsters you order from Starbucks).
Stop Before You Start
Be wise with your caffeine consumption. If you don’t already consume caffeine on a regular basis, you probably don’t need to start to. If you’re looking to pick up a coffee- or tea-drinking habit, do so with care as to how much you’re putting in your cup. Caffeine is a neat way to inject some extra vim into your routine, but we can’t forget it is, after all, a psychoactive drug. Enjoy yourself, but proceed with caution.