Health tips – Small changes with big effects. 7. Caffeine isn’t all bad

The 7th article in our small changes with big effects series.

Caffeine isn’t all bad: it also has major health benefits

In praise of caffeine, the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug © Getty Images

© Getty Images

Apart from the flavour, what I love about tea and coffee is that they’re stimulants, rich with the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug, caffeine. A white, crystalline powder, it’s produced by plants to protect them against insect attack.

Not only do tea and coffee perk me up in the mornings, but there is strong evidence that caffeine consumers enjoy a range of other health benefits, with the benefits being clearer for coffee than tea.

A massive review of studies, ‘Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes’, published in the British Medical Journal, which looked at more than 220 studies, found that drinking coffee was associated with a significantly lower risk of heart disease and cancer, possibly because it’s rich in antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compounds. Coffee drinking was also associated with a lower rate of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Read Dr Mosley’s full advice on drinking caffeine

WebMD Says:

Potential Health Benefits of Caffeine

You can find caffeine in many different foods, where it can provide some significant health benefits. However, the same aspects that make caffeine so healthy can also create complications for people with certain medical conditions.

Research has found several potential health benefits to consuming caffeine, including:

Boost Energy Levels

By far, the most famous effect of caffeine is its ability to help energize people. This occurs because caffeine is a substance known as a stimulant, which helps create an improved mood, higher levels of alertness, and lower levels of self-reported fatigue among users.

Studies have shown that this is more than just a placebo effect; caffeine can in fact put some pep in your step.

Increased Metabolic Rate

The same stimulant effect that can help make you more alert may also give your metabolism a boost. Consuming the amount of caffeine found in a single cup of coffee has been linked to a 3-4% increase in metabolic rate. This means that consuming caffeine may slightly increase the number of calories you burn in a day.

Researchers are still studying to confirm whether this effect happens on its own. Another possibility is that caffeine reduces fatigue and encourages more movement or exercise in people.

Improves Exercise Performance

The same reduction in fatigue may help you exercise more efficiently. Studies suggest that consuming a moderate amount of caffeine before exercise can help improve your athletic performance and reduce your fatigue during the exercise.

Caffeine may even make exercise feel less difficult, which can help you enjoy the process more and exercise more frequently.

May Improve Heart Health

Coffee is associated with an increased heart rate, so some people assume caffeine may cause a risk of heart problems. However, in moderate amounts, consuming caffeine may actually reduce your risk of heart disease.

One study compared a wide variety of caffeine consumption levels. Researchers concluded that women who consumed moderate amounts of caffeine had a significantly lower risk of heart disease than women who consumed less.

Potential Risks of Caffeine

Although caffeine has some health benefits, you shouldn’t consume it heavily. Caffeine can interact with medications and health conditions to cause negative consequences. Consider the following before consuming caffeine:

Habit-Forming

First and foremost, caffeine is habit-forming and may become addictive. Consuming caffeine in large amounts for a long period of time can lead to withdrawal feelings such as headaches and irritability in many people. While caffeine withdrawal is mild compared to many other forms of withdrawal, it can still be unpleasant. Consider the potential effects before increasing your caffeine consumption.

May Cause Headaches

Caffeine can lead to headaches and migraines for two reasons. First, if you have formed a caffeine addiction, failing to consume caffeine one day can lead to withdrawal symptoms like headaches. Meanwhile, consuming a much larger amount of caffeine than you normally do can also cause headaches. While some patients who have migraines find caffeine to help reduce their symptoms, other people find that consuming caffeine triggers migraines.

Complete article here

Other recommended links:

Bupa – How caffeine affects the body

BHF Heart Matters – If coffee bad for my heart?

BBC Goodfood – How much coffee should I drink?

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