Caffeine: The Key to Weight Loss?
The pros and cons of caffeine.
Let’s face it: You’re addicted to caffeine! Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Millions around the globe are in the same boat. Without that cup (or cups) of coffee to get you going in the morning, that energy drink to get you through a night of studying, or that soda to give the boost you need in the afternoon, you’re practically worthless.
Caffeine seems to be a harmless drug, as far as drugs go. And you can probably think of a long list of benefits that come with that cup of coffee. But are there any downsides to consuming too much caffeine?
What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a bitter-tasting substance naturally found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and kola nuts, which is added to soda, energy drinks, some weight loss supplements, and certain medications. It is a stimulant drug that affects your metabolism and stimulates your central nervous system, increasing your alertness and energy level.
Most people who consume some form of caffeine on a regular basis could forgo it and be fine. Others, however, seem to be addicted. They are dependent on caffeine to function well, and if they don’t have those cups of coffee, they have withdrawal symptoms (headache, anxiety, fatigue, or depression for a few days). Addiction to caffeine is not nearly as serious as addiction to other drugs. It won’t put you in danger, damage relationships, or break your bank like other addictive drugs, but it may have its downsides.
If you drink coffee in the morning, you know the benefits that come with caffeine. Perhaps you notice that your memory is improved; you feel awake, alert and energized; you’re more social; or you’re able to focus and get more accomplished.
Besides these well-known benefits of caffeine, there are other possible health benefits to moderate consumption. Your morning Joe may be doing more than waking you up. Research has shown that caffeine consumption may help reduce your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, colorectal cancer, liver disease, or liver cancer. Caffeine can also help to relieve headaches and asthma symptoms.
A few cups of coffee a day won’t hurt you. However, there are dangers to consuming too much caffeine, and caffeine abuse is a growing problem—especially among teens and young adults. Compacting the problem is that more and more products are being marketed for high levels of caffeine. Sodas are now super-sized, energy drinks are chock full of the drug, and caffeine-infused diet pills are gaining in popularity.
While not as dangerous as other drugs, caffeine abuse can lead to insomnia, restlessness, irritability, nausea, vomiting, headaches, tremors, heart palpitations, and chest pains. Additionally, caffeine raises your blood pressure temporarily. Normally this isn’t reason for concern, but repeated high doses of caffeine may lead to heart problems. If you’ve already got high blood pressure, are young or elderly, the affect on your blood pressure may be dangerous.
How Much Is Too Much?
In general, you’re in the safe zone if you drink less than three or four cups of coffee a day or consume less than 400 mg of caffeine a day. However, some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others. One cup of coffee could energize you until lunch, while it takes four cups for someone else. Know your body and learn to recognize negative symptoms of too much caffeine. If you start noticing that you feel jittery or anxious after that third cup, it’s time to cut back. Pregnant or nursing mothers should also limit their caffeine consumption.
So go ahead and enjoy that cup of coffee each morning. Just beware of the dangers of abusing caffeine in its many delicious forms.