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Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Truth About Caffeine

How many of you here consider yourself caffeine addicts? How much coffee do you drink a day? One cup? Two cups? More? How about caffeinated sodas?

Caffeine is pervasive in our society these days and every few months we hear about how a study has shown that it is bad for us or good for us. What are we to believe?

Today I'd like to give you some of the facts about caffeine and its effects on your body. It may not cause you to change your coffee consumption but at least you'll be better informed about what you are putting into your body.

I'm going to talk about the beneficial effects of caffeine, the negative effects and discuss what are considered safe levels of caffeine consumption.

Let's start with the good news. Caffeine, which comes from the leaves, seeds and fruits of about 63 different plants, is well known as a stimulant. That's why people drink it, right?

Caffeine does help you wake up and feel more alert and it has been shown to increase attention spans. This is a beneficial effect for people who are driving long distances and for people who are doing tedious work. Calling this a health benefit may be stretching it, though staying awake while you are driving a car is definitely a benefit to your well-being!

Caffeine also contains antioxidants which have been shown to have cancer prevention qualities.

The negative effects of caffeine are largely dependent on how much you consume.

When consumed in small quantities like, for example when you have one cup of coffee or one soda, caffeine can cause your heart rate to increase, you urinate more which can cause dehydration, and your digestive system produces more acid.

In larger amounts, caffeine can cause you to have headaches, feel restless and nervous, be unable to sleep, and even, in very large quantities to have hallucinations.(Don't try that at home!) When larger amounts of caffeine (over 600 mg per day) are used over long periods of time you can develop sleep problems, get depressed and have problems with your digestive system.

According to a Medline article on the National Institutes of Health website, having caffeine in your diet is not of any benefit to your health but moderate consumption is also not considered harmful.

They say that having up to 3 eight ounce cups of coffee a day or 250 mg of caffeine is considered (quote) "average or moderate". 10 cups of coffee a day is considered excessive. Also, remember that the amount of caffeine per cup can vary greatly depending on the type of beans that are used and the strength of the brew.

Most sodas with caffeine, unless they are specially enhanced like "Jolt" or something like that, have about 35 mg of caffeine per 8 ounces so you don't have to worry too much unless you are drinking several 2 liter bottles per day. Also, the effect of caffeine on you personally will depend on a number of factors like your weight, general health, mood and personal sensitivity to caffeine.

You can see that caffeine can have both positive and negative effects on our health and well-being but the bottom line is that if you drink your coffee or sodas in moderation, you don't have to worry too much.

So, the next time you are wondering whether you should have that second cup of coffee to perk you up, relax. At least now you know what it is and isn't doing to you!



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