What is caffeine and what does it do?

The actual definition of caffeine is a crystalline compound that is found specifically in tea and coffee plants. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system.

What are some of the biggest health benefits of caffeine? It is most known for it ability to boost energy. A few years ago the first thing that health professionals would tell their cardiovascular patients to avoid is coffee or caffeine but recent research has proved that coffee is beneficial and can actually cause a 8-15% decrease risk of mortality. The World Health Organization (WHO) has actually removed coffee off of the carcinogen list.

 

Studies have found that coffee drinkers may have a reduced risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease (including heart attack, heart failure, and stroke)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Uterine and liver cancer
  • Cirrhosis

The reasons why coffee and caffeine are beneficial are not known specifically yet. Some theories suggest it could be related to the average lifestyle of a person who drinks coffee, the simple fact that a cup of coffee is less calories then juice/soda, etc. and the antioxidant compounds found in the coffee beans have health benefits.

 

Is there anyone who should avoid caffeine? Just like anything there are always contraindications to excess caffeine, those who have pancreatic, bladder or esophageal cancers, certain types of cardiovascular disease, and those who have insomnia and/ or anxiety.
What would be a good amount of caffeine to drink per day to reap the potential benefits? A moderate amount of 3-4 cups per day is the recommended amount. More then a small cup needs to be consumed for health benefits, but consuming too much is also dangerous and has been linked to heart palpitations, digestive distress and even temporary blood pressure increase. Also, keep in mind adding sugar or processed flavored creamers or powders negates the health benefits of coffee. A simple splash of half and half is enough.

 

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-latest-scoop-on-the-health-benefits-of-coffee-2017092512429

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2015/11/10/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.017341

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045%2816%2930239-X/abstract