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Caffeine: Deciphering Fact And Fiction

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Many of us enjoy a nice hot cup of java in the mornings, but we’ve all heard so much about caffeine over the years that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to know whether or not it’s actually any good for you. Truth be told, most people can’t even name all of the places that caffeine is hiding – It’s certainly difficult to know how much of it you’re getting when you don’t even know if what you’re consuming is chalked full of it!

In this short post, we’ll discuss the various places you can get caffeine, talk about how wildly the dosing can vary from item to item, and even determine whether all that stuff we’ve been hearing about it all these years is fact or fiction.

What Foods Is Caffeine Hiding In?

Coffee beans and tea leaves are the most obvious answers here, but did you know that caffeine is also hiding in things like cocoa leaves and kola nuts as well? You can also purchase caffeine pills (and medications that contain caffeine to make them more effective), and – believe it or not – even decaffeinated coffee isn’t completely free and clear of it.

What’s even crazier is how wildly the content of caffeine can vary between items, depending on the type of food or beverage and serving size. Some energy drinks have as much as 160mg per serving in them while other foods, like chocolate syrup, contain as little as 4mg.

Caffeine Claims: Fact or Fiction

Now we’ll get down to all of those things you’ve heard about caffeine and whether or not the claims are true. Some of these answers probably won’t surprise you in the least, but others just might.

Caffeine Is Addictive: Fact

Though it doesn’t have the same dependencies and side effects of some other addictive things, caffeine does stimulate your central nervous system and can cause, to some extent, a physical dependency. That means that although you aren’t really threatening your health with it, you’ll probably notice it if you randomly stop drinking it all of a sudden. That’s right, caffeine withdrawal is a real thing; here are some of the symptoms: Anxiety, irritability, headache, depression, lack of concentration.

Caffeine Can Cause Insomnia: Fact

Most people can get away with drinking coffee in the mornings and still sleep soundly at night. This is because our liver plays a big role in filtering it. It takes between five and seven hours to eliminate roughly half of the caffeine consumed in the morning; by hour ten, there’s only about 25% of it left. By the time it’s time to head to bed, nearly (if not) everything will have been filtered through.

Drinking coffee later in the day might cause issues for some people, though. While most can get away with drinking afternoon or evening coffee (keeping at least six hours between your last caffeinated drink and bedtime is always a good rule to have), some can’t. The more stimulated you feel from it, the more time you should leave between it and sleep time.

Caffeine Can Increase Your Risk For Certain Diseases: Fiction (but more research is required)

Heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis come up most when this one is brought up. While most healthy adults can drink moderate amounts of caffeine with no issues, some people might be more sensitive its effects. Broken down, here’s what the facts are when it comes to these three common misconceptions:

Heart Disease: If you’re someone who’s sensitive to caffeine, it’s not uncommon for it to cause a slight rise in your blood pressure and/or heart rate. That said, several large studies have been done that have not found a link between caffeine and higher cholesterol, caffeine and an irregular heartbeat, or caffeine and cardiovascular disease. However, you should book an appointment with your medical professional if you have high blood pressure or heart problems to discuss how much you can realistically ingest because you might be more susceptible to its effects.

Cancer: 13 studies involving more than 20,000 people total were reviewed and not one of them could find any sort of correlation between caffeine and cancer. As a matter of fact, as it turns out, caffeine might actually help protect against certain cancers (although more research is needed to prove or disprove this).

Osteoporosis: Though it’s true that at high levels (nearly 750mg, so think 7.5 cups of coffee or so), caffeine might increase calcium and magnesium loss in urine, but more recent studies suggest that if you’re getting enough calcium, it shouldn’t be an issue at all. It’s said that you can offset the calcium loss by adding as little as two tablespoons of milk to your java. That said, there might be a link between caffeine ingestion and hip fractures in older adults because it might be harder on their metabolism. If you’re getting older and you ingest a lot of caffeine, it might be worth making an appointment with your healthcare professional to find out whether you should be limiting your intake.

You Shouldn’t Consume Any Caffeine If You’re Trying To Get Pregnant: Fiction

The March of Dimes recommends that women who are trying to conceive should limit their caffeine intake to less than 200mg per day, but that recommendation seems to be based on a limited number of studies which found that women consuming higher amounts of caffeine had an increased risk of miscarriage.

Consuming low levels of caffeine is not connected to birth defects, premature birth, low birth rate, trouble conceiving, or miscarriage, so don’t give up your one golden cup of coffee because you feel like you need to. Always listen to your body, though – You might be more sensitive to it that others.

Caffeine Dehydrates You: Fiction

It’s true that drinking coffee makes you need to urinate, but the fluid in the caffeinated beverages usually overrides the fluids you lose. As long as you’re not drinking insane amounts of it, the diuretic effect caffeine has is quite unlikely to cause dehydration. If it’s something that you’re concerned about, just make sure to drink some glasses of water in between your coffee cups.

Kids Ingest More Caffeine Than Adults Do And It’s Hurting Them: More Research Is Needed

In 2004, studies found that children between the ages of six and nine were consuming about 22mg of caffeine a day, which is definitely within the safe zone. Thing is, caffeine-containing energy drinks have become a lot more popular since then. Some kids can end up being pretty sensitive to caffeine (usually resulting in behavioral changes such as irritability or anxiety before crashing), and a lot of the drinks that contain it also come packed with sugar. So while kids aren’t necessarily being affected by the caffeine in normal, everyday foods, their intake should probably be monitored to some extent.

Caffeine Sobers You Up: Fiction

You’ve probably heard that if you have a little too much to drink while you’re out, you can just drink a cup or two of coffee and you’ll be fine. It’s possible that you even know someone who swears by this method. Studies show that it’s more of a placebo effect than anything though – Drinking coffee makes you think that you’re sobering up, but the fact of the matter is your judgment and reactive abilities are still very much impaired.

Caffeine Is Not Beneficial To Your Health In Any Way: Fiction

Though the list of completely proven health benefits leaves a little to be desired, caffeine does have some pretty interesting potential ones – Limited evidence suggests that caffeine intake could actually reduce one’s risk of developing liver disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, colorectal cancer, and even diabetes! It’s also known to help with headaches and can help ease asthma in certain individuals.

Anyone who can’t start their day without a cup of coffee will tell you that caffeine helps keep them more alert and energetic. But, while it does have some potential benefits, it’s important to remember that too much of anything can have adverse effects. If you’re someone who consumes a ton of caffeine on a regular basis, it might be work checking in with your health care professional just to make sure that you’re not crossing that threshold.

Do you need caffeine to get through your day? What’s your favorite way to get it? Let us know in the comments section below.

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