The Truth About Caffeine

The information available on caffeine these days is very confusing. Some sources advocate caffeine drinks as “energy” drinks. Some recommend caffeinated drinks but suggest avoiding the “additives” in caffeinated drinks – sugar, fat, vitamins, and amino acids. Others claim that caffeine is addictive with nasty side-effects. Others condemn caffeine in all forms and for all purposes. What’s the truth about caffeine?

First fact: Caffeine is not an “energy” producer! True energy comes from a source of calories which can be burned by the body. Caffeine does not produce energy.

Second fact: Caffeine gives a false sense of alertness by suppressing the body’s rest and sleep mechanism resulting in brain stimulation and seemingly improved thinking and performance ability. This lasts 4-6 hours followed by a “let down” (lower than before the caffeine) which requires another jolt of caffeine to restore performance to normal levels.

Third fact: Caffeine and its relatives, theophylline (from tea) and theobromine (from chocolate), have positive and negative effects on the body. In small doses – one to two cups of coffee – they can improve muscle strength and coordination, strengthen a failing heart, effectively treat apnea of the newborn, decrease the risk of uterine and liver cancer, somewhat decrease the risk of Type II diabetes, decrease pain perception. In moderate doses – two to three cups of coffee, more for tea – they can cause or worsen heart palpitations and hypertension, decrease circulation in small vessel diseases, increase eye pressure in glaucoma patients, cause high stomach acidity and bleeding, increase the risk of bladder cancer, cause dehydration, and cause sleep disturbances.

Fourth Fact: Caffeine and its relatives are psychoactive drugs – they affect and change the way the brain works. Short term and in smaller doses they can have the positive affects noted above. In larger doses and over the long term in even smaller doses, they can cause fidgeting, irritability, and restlessness. They can interfere with sleep up to 15 hours after ingesting. They can increase anxiety, especially in those with anxiety disorders. In larger doses – three to six cups of coffee – they can cause mania, depression, lapses in judgment, disorientation, hallucinations or psychosis.

Fifth Fact: Caffeine can be addictive both physically and psychologically. Withdrawal symptoms on stopping the caffeine can include headache, inability to concentrate, drowsiness or insomnia, nausea and vomiting, pain in the stomach or the joints, and an intense desire to restart the caffeine.

What do you think? Read the facts. Note how close the small helpful dose and the larger unhelpful dose are to each other. Decide for yourself: Is the good choice for you 5 hours of sleep and coffee or 8 hours of sleep and no coffee? Is the good choice for you daily caffeine, artificial stimulation, and addiction with withdrawal symptom breakthroughs along with other side effects and health risks or the stimulation of exercise and the restfulness of regular sleep patterns?

What do you think? You decide.