Is caffeine actually beneficial for our health?

Many of us will have a cup (or cups if you are anything like me) of coffee or tea in the morning for a burst of energy. But what effect does caffeine have on the body and is it beneficial to your health? 

Caffeine is a psychoactive drug that can be found in items such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks. Caffeine typically enters the bloodstream within 15 minutes after consumption, and many people notice that they may feel more energetic, more attentive, and more alert, which may help them throughout their day.

It’s important to recognise that everyone reacts differently to caffeine, some of us will happily have a cup of coffee or tea before bed and have no issue falling to sleep, whereas some of us may have trouble sleeping from a caffeine-based drink we had much earlier on in the day.

This is due to the way we metabolise caffeine and it is linked to the CYP1A2 gene.  With this genetic variation, it has been found that you can either be a slow or fast metaboliser of caffeine. The slow metabolisers tend to react more to caffeine. However, this does not mean it is only slow metabolisers who can have caffeine side effects, as both can experience the effects of caffeine.

Focusing on coffee, surprisingly, it can provide some benefits. Coffee contains some fibre, and the fibre found in coffee are compounds known as phenolics. Coffee also contains certain minerals such as potassium, which is linked to lower blood pressure.  Caffeine can also have a positive impact on sport and exercise performance.

Studies also show that coffee drinkers may have a much lower risk of developing several diseases such as diabetes mellitus type 2, liver cancer heart disease. There are also some links with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

On the other hand, some of the negatives include the side effects some of us may experience with caffeine. These side effects may include:

· Migraine headache

· Difficulty sleeping

· Restlessness

· Frequent urination

· Stomach upset

· Nervousness

· Irritability

· Fast heartbeat

It is advised to avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime to ensure that your body no longer is under the influence of caffeine, as this can cause interrupted sleep.

It’s important to be mindful of the effects and look towards having caffeine in moderation. It is recommended to have no more than 300mg of caffeine, or no more than 200mg if you are pregnant a day. Different types of caffeine-based drinks will provide different amounts of caffeine levels.

As discussed earlier, caffeine found within coffee does have some benefits for your mind and body, but if you choose to reduce your consumption, there are plenty of alternatives you can opt for. These can include:

  • Herbal and fruit teas

  • Caffeine-free coffee/tea

  • Horlicks

  • Water

  • Squash

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