Caffeine – Friend or Foe?

Is your morning tipple doing you any good or the opposite?

Let’s face it, some of us just can’t seem to function without a cup of coffee in the morning. So it’s of no surprise then that its the most popular drink worldwide with around 2 billion cups consumed every day.

Here are some stats from the British Coffee Association.

  • In the UK, we now drink approx. 95 million cups of coffee per day
  • 80% of UK households buy instant coffee for in-home consumption, particularly those aged 65 and older.
  • Ground coffee and single use coffee pods are becoming increasingly popular, particularly amongst millennials (ages 16-34). They account for 16% of all buyers.
  • Cafe culture is also booming with 80% of people visiting coffee shops once a week and 16% of us visiting on a daily basis.

With so many ways in which we can take our coffee, it’s no wonder the industry is booming. But whether you like your coffee black or need yours dairy free, how good is coffee for our health?

Bone Health

Bone health can be affected by a number of factors including diet, amount of exercise, gender and the level of exposure to the sun. One study (Hallstom et al, 2013) has suggested that caffeine might hinder the absorption of calcium and Vitamin D which are essential for bone health. They did conclude though, that it was only a small reduction and would not result in an increased risk of fractures.

Cancer

In 2016, the International Agency for Research on Cancer reviewed all available research on coffee and cancer and found no clear association between coffee intake and cancer. In some cases, evidence has shown that coffee drinking could decrease the occurrence of certain cancers. This may be due to the fact that caffeine is high in antioxidants.

Cardiovascular health

Research by Mostofsky (2012), Liu (2013), Ding (2014) and many others have found that drinking around 3-5 cups of coffee a day may decrease cardiovascular disease mortality risk and that it may actually have a protective effect.

Mental performance

There is a link between caffeine consumption and an increase in alertness. The European Food Safety Authority states that there is a  cause and effect relationship, with a 75mg serving of caffeine (the amount found in approx. 1 mug of coffee) providing an increase in both concentration and alertness.

A connection has also been found between mood and reaction time. Smith (2009) found that by regularly consuming 75mg of caffeine every 4 hours, provided a sustained improvement of mood over the day, particularly in fatigued individuals.

Anxiety

However, Smith, mentioned above, also found that high consumption of caffeine can lead to an increase in anxiety, nervousness, heart palpitations and exacerbate panic attacks. If you find you are sensitive to coffee, you should avoid it altogether.

Sleep

For some, an increase in alertness can be seen as a good thing, but being too alert will create issues with our sleep. Our bodies naturally repair and recover when we sleep, so any interruption to it will have an impact on how refreshed we feel when we wake in the morning. If we are not feeling refreshed it leads to us reaching for the coffee once more.

We must consider this when it comes to the time of day we are consuming coffee. Caffeine has been found to remain in our blood stream for between 6-8 hours. Therefore it is recommended that we stop drinking caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea or cola post 2pm to prevent it having an affect on our sleep.

Sports performance

The European Food Safety Authority has concluded that there is an association between caffeine consumption and an increase in endurance performance, endurance capacity and a reduction in rate of perceived exertion during exercise. This has been seen in both athletes and those who are not trained athletes.

Alzheimers and Parkinsons

Studies have shown that coffee drinkers have up to a 65% lower risk of developing Alzheimers and a 32-60% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Type 2 diabetes

Numerous studies have shown that coffee drinkers have a significant lower risk of type 2 diabetes. HOWEVER, it’s the associated cakes and biscuits that we consume with our hot drinks that we need to consider and is normally the factor that increases the risk of diabetes .

Blood pressure

Caffeine has blood pressure raising effects although this usually dissipates with regular use. However, a slight increase in blood pressure of 1-2mmHg may persist.

Addiction and withdrawal of caffeine

Caffeine can be addictive. If consumed regularly enough the individual becomes tolerant to its effects. Because of this, people end up consuming more to produce the same effect it did before. When an individual then abstains from coffee or they can’t get hold of it, they suffer from withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, brain fog and irritability.

Caffeine and fat loss

Studies in humans have shown that when we drink coffee, it increases levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine whilst we are at rest. These are the same hormones we produce when we are scared or stressed. Permanently elevated levels of cortisol leads to increased blood sugar levels which in turn can lead to a natural tendency to store fat, especially around the belly. As mentioned before, as some of us load our drinks with sugar and milk or add a little treat with our coffee, like cakes and biscuits or a sugary breakfast, you can begin to see that caffeine has both a direct and indirect effect on fat loss or lack of it.

Conclusion

As you can see caffeine can be both friend and foe depending on how you consume it. If you drink it in moderation and at the right times of day and watch what you add to it or consume with it, then it will very much work in your favour. HOWEVER – drink too much of it, or add the treats to it and you could end up spiralling into an addicted, over weight, stressed out mess.

As with all things – CONSUME IN MODERATION.