Caffeine: the good, bad and the ugly

Have you ever questioned what your morning coffee may be doing to your health?


I’m all for everything in moderation, however, on this occasion, some people will be better off either limiting or eliminating their daily coffee intake. Caffeine effects will vary from person to person due to our individual biological makeup.


Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance derived from more than 60 different plants. Coffee, cacao, cocoa, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks and some medications contain caffeine—designed for their stimulatory and diuretic effects.


For now, I will focus on the energising bunny, coffee. Coffee is one of the most commonly consumed stimulants in the world.


How it works:

Caffeine interferes with adenosine receptors. Adenosine is in charge of dilating blood vessels in the brain, slowing nerve activity and promoting sleep. This receptor interference results in constriction of blood vessels in the brain, increased neural activity and a release of hormones such as adrenaline. Hence the energy increase, alertness and for some, mental clarity for a short period of time.

Coffee also stimulates our reward pathways, leaving us feeling as though we couldn’t get through a day without that precious morning glory. Yikes!


Ok, so a little more bad news…evidence shows conditions such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease (PUD), migraines, arrhythmias, insomnia, benign fibrocystic breast disease and anxiety may be aggravated post coffee consumption.


Excessive amounts of caffeine can result in:

  • Elevated heart rate

  • Anxiety or depression

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Insomnia

  • Tremors

  • Agitation and restlessness

  • Frequent urination

Now for the good news, numerous studies have linked coffee consumption to reduced risks of diabetes mellitus, certain cancer prevention, mental and physical performance enhancement, and protection against Parkinson’s disease!


My generalised recommendations:

  • Stick to one coffee per day (that doesn’t mean 5 shots in one!)

  • Consume in its most natural form: go for coffee beans or ground coffee (bonus points for organic)

  • Limit your dairy intake, opt for nut milks

  • Avoid drinking coffee after midday

If you’re feeling coffee isn’t the best option for you

  • Green tea or matcha can be a good replacement and a gentle caffeine switch

  • Dandelion root tea has a similar bitter taste to coffee which you may enjoy

  • Replace with herbal teas, Chia or Turmeric Latte


Thanks for reading!



References

1. Torquati, L., Peeters, G., Brown, W, J., & Skinner, T, L. (2018). A daily cup of tea or coffee may keep you moving: association between tea and coffee consumption and physical activity. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Retrieved from https://web.a.ebscohost.com


2. Marcel, C. (2018). Coffee. CINAHL Nutrition Guide. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com