It would not be an exaggeration to say that caffeine has achieved celebrity status. In fact, it is possible that caffeine has received more mixed press than Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson and both presidential candidates in the 2016 election. The stimulant has been credited with everything from causing cancer to curing it, and the verdict seems to vary with the weather. While the jury still seems to be out on the final judgment, there are a few things that we do know to be facts about caffeine so let’s take the time to clear up to sort out some of the tabloid rumors from the hard truth. Its time to separate myth from fact about the sordid tales of caffeine.
Myth No. 1: Caffeine is Addictive
Ok, so maybe a little bit. Caffeine does stimulate the central nervous system, and, yes, regular use does can lead to a mild physical dependence. However, it doesn’t pose a threat to your mental, physical, economic or social health.
If you choose to go cold turkey on your java habit, you may experience symptoms of withdrawal, including headache, anxiety, irritability, and depression. However, because the severity of the withdrawal is relatively low, most experts agree that caffeine dependence is not a serious addiction.
Myth No. 2: Caffeine Causes Insomnia
Although this will likely come as a surprise to most of us, caffeine is not a huge culprit when it comes to preventing sleep. While the body absorbs caffeine quickly, it also disposes of it quickly. Caffeine has a comparatively short half-life; it takes about five to seven hours for the body to eliminate half of it. Thus 75% of the caffeine is gone eight to ten hours after consumption. So, a morning coffee or two should have no bearing on your sleep.
However, consuming caffeine later in the day can be a different story. Most people will be safe from a disrupted sleep as long as they avoid caffeine for at least 6 hours before bedtime. More sensitive people may experience not only insomnia, but also nervousness and upset of the gastrointestinal system.
Myth No. 3: Caffeine Increases Risk of Heart Disease, Osteoporosis, and Cancer
For most healthy adults, a moderate amount of caffeine (3 cups of coffee, or 300 mgs of caffeine) a day will not cause problems. However, some people, such as those who battle with high blood pressure, may be more vulnerable.
High doses of caffeine (more than 744 mgs per day) have been shown to decrease calcium and magnesium in urine, but no studies suggest it contributes to bone loss, especially if your intake of calcium remains high. Two tablespoons of milk added to your java will offset any lost calcium. Be warned though – research has shown links between caffeine intake and hip fracture in mature adults. Older coffee drinkers are advised to discuss their daily dose of caffeine with a health care expert.
Caffeine causes a slight rise in heart rate and blood pressure, but large studies have failed to find a connection between caffeine and high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, or heart disease. If your blood pressure is high, you may want to discuss the effects of caffeine with a doctor, as more research is required to tell whether or not caffeine leads to an increased risk of stroke in those who have high blood pressure.
Thirteen studies of 20,000 people revealed no link between cancer and caffeine, and evidence has even surfaced that caffeine may even protect against the disease.
Myth No. 4: Caffeine Can Sober You up
It may seem like it, but the truth is judgment and reaction time are still impaired. In fact, the mixture of caffeine and alcohol is more likely to cause car accidents than alcohol alone.
Myth No. 5: Caffeine Is Harmful to Children
Big shocker here. According to research obtained in 2004, kids age 6 to 9 can consume about 22 milligrams a day and still remain within the recommended limit. However, that’s not to say you want to turn the little ones into regular caffeine fiends. Some children can be more sensitive and may experience anxiety or a “crash” post caffeine intake. Besides, most caffeinated beverages contain other things that most of us don’t want out children to ingest.
So, are you team caffeine or not? Of course, its all about moderation and sensible judgment, but let us know how you weigh in!