Demystifying Caffeine

Demystifying Caffeine

If specialty coffee shops have proved one thing, it’s that coffee is in huge demand. With specialty coffee shops on virtually every corner, it’s no surprise that coffee is the primary source of caffeine consumption in the United States. But if coffee isn’t your thing, caffeine can also be found in energy drinks, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and even some dietary supplements.

Over the years, there has been some concern about the effects caffeine has on the human body. From causing heart disease to aiding in weight loss, caffeine has been credited with both harmful and helpful side effects. Read on to see which of these effects is fact and which is fiction.

Fact – Caffeine Helps You Focus

Caffeine stimulates the body’s central nervous system and boosts the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s ability to focus and maintain concentration. The activation of the brain leads to feeling energized and awake while reducing the effects of fatigue. But drinking caffeine too late in the day may affect your ability to sleep.

Fiction – Caffeine Causes Heart Disease

Recent studies have shown that caffeine does not cause heart disease. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Caffeine consumption can aid in boosting overall health. For instance, coffee is full of polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants. So consumption of caffeine, via coffee or other methods, may actually help reduce the chance of getting heart disease.

Fact – Caffeine Aids in Headache Relief

Headaches can be caused in part by the expansion of blood vessels in the brain. When caffeine is added to common headache remedies, it may increase headache relief by as much as 40 percent. But sometimes, you can stop the headache pain with caffeine alone. Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it makes the diameter of blood vessels smaller. In the case of a headache, caffeine aids in reducing inflammation and restoring blood vessels to their optimal dimensions and function, which in turn, relieves the pain. Unfortunately, in some individuals, caffeine may actually trigger a headache or even a migraine.

Fiction – Caffeine Is Addictive

Caffeine is a stimulant, creating bursts of energy and allowing one to focus on a task for a longer period of time. Although it can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as headache and fatigue, it is not psychologically addictive. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a “psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm.” Caffeine, unlike other substances, does not meet that criteria, even though you morning coffee aficionados might feel that way if you don’t get your daily caffeine wakeup jolt.

Fact – Caffeine Increases Endurance

Studies show that, yes, caffeine does aid in boosting physical endurance and slowing fatigue. Approximately 1.5 hours after consumption, caffeine affects both muscle and brain functioning, releasing endorphins and adrenaline for a feel-good performance.

Fiction – Caffeine Helps You Lose Weight

In the short term, caffeine can boost metabolism and stimulate fat loss. However, there is no significant evidence that caffeine is responsible for long-term weight loss. Over time, as you become more tolerant of the appetite-suppressing effects of caffeine, the effects are lessened, and any benefit for weight loss begins to fade.

In addition to the benefits noted above, consumption of caffeine, via coffee or other methods, may also help delay the onset of type 2 diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Caffeine also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Some individuals are more sensitive to caffeine than others. It’s best to pay attention to your body and see whether caffeine’s effects are positive or negative for you.

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