Is caffeine good for you?
From a cup of tea or coffee first thing in the morning to munching on some chocolate during the day, we get our caffeine hit in many ways.
We are loading up on the caffeine from non-dietary sources in the form of tablets. Students and truck drivers may be familiar with those, as well as ‘energy’ and caffeinated soft drinks.
All this caffeine is putting a lot of pressure on our organs, but the way we consume our caffeine may actually have some benefits.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of our caffeine addiction.
- Tea has shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease1
- The combination of the tea flavonoids and caffeine has shown to increase fat oxidation during exercise (burning an extra 250 to 600 kJ/day) 1
- Tea is rich in polyphenols, an antioxidant. There are approximately 170mg of flavonoids per cup of tea
- Consuming up to 100g of dark chocolate that contains 500mg of polyphenols can reduce systolic blood pressure1. Cocoa is the highest dietary source of flavonoids1
- Tea and cocoa improve endothelial (vein and artery) function1
- Coffee, with no added sugar, is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes1,2 regardless of being caffeinated or decaf2
- Four or more cups of tea a day reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes by 20%2
- When consumed alongside a high quality, nutritional adequate diet, caffeine increases cognitive function (brain power), attention and memory3
- Both caffeinated and decaf coffee consumption (approximately five cups a day) has shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer4
- Both caffeinated and decaf coffee consumption has shown to reduce the risk of kidney stones5
- Four of more cups of coffee a day may reduce your risk of endometrial cancer6
- Black tea and coffee has shown to increase systolic blood pressure due to the caffeine content1. However, when caffeine is consumed through coffee, the increase in blood pressure is much less than if you were to consume the same amount of caffeine from a tablet1 (or an energy drink). In fact, isolated caffeine sources were two to three times worse1
- The type of coffee you are drink may also increase your cholesterol. Boiled coffees such as Turkish coffee are the worst offenders, while filtered drip and instant coffee were the least1
- Be sure you are eating cocoa, not manufactured chocolate. Manufacturers remove the flavonols due to their bitter taste and add in sugar and fat1
- Caffeine can cause loss of sleep and restlessness/aggitation1
- Sugar-sweetened caffeinated beverages (like colas and energy drinks) are linked to weight gain and type 2 diabetes2
- Caffeine inhibits iron absorption when consumed with, or shortly after, a meal7
The Heart Foundation is not big on recommending the consumption of coffee. Less than five cups per day is okay as long as it’s filtered, café style or instant coffee with low fat milk (or no milk) and no sugar1. As part of a healthy diet, they do recommend green or black tea and cocoa made from raw cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate)1.
If you are a cola and energy drink type of person, it is recommended that you switch to tea or coffee to gain the added benefits of these drinks2.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also re-evaluated their carcinogenic classification of coffee, previously thought to be possibly carcinogenic to humans. Since June 2016, the WHO now deems coffee to have no carcinogenic effects. Instead the harm may come from how hot your coffee is, not the coffee itself8.
If you are looking for health benefits, decaf tea and coffee (but not too hot!) without the added sugar and cream are the best choice. You get the antioxidants and great taste without any nasty side effects.
Are you a caffeine addict? Or abstainer?
We’d like to hear your views. Submit your comments below.
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- The Heart Foundation. (2010). Summary of evidence: Antioxidants in food, drinks and supplements for cardiovascular health [Guidelines]. NSW: The National Heart Foundation of Australia. Retrieved from https://heartfoundation.org.au/images/uploads/publications/Antioxidants-Summary-Evidence.pdf
- Bupathiraju, S., N., Pan, A., Malik, V., S., Manson, J., E., Willett, W., C., van Dam, R., M., & Hu, F., B. (2013). Caffeinated and caffeine-free beverages and risk of type 2 diabetes. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 97, 155-166. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.048603
- Beydoun, M., A, Gamaldo, A., A., Beydoun, H., A., Tanaka, T., Tucker, K., L Talegawkar, S., A.,…Zonderman, A., B. (2014). Caffeine and alcohol intakes and overall nutrient adequacy are associated with longitudinal cognitive performance among U.S. adults. The Journal of Nutrition, 144, 890-901. doi:10.3945/jn.113.189027
- Sinha, R., Cross, A., J., Daniel, C., R., Graubard, B., I., Wu, J., W., Hollenbeck, A., R.,…Freedman N., D. (2012). Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and tea intakes and risk of colorectal cancer in a large prospective study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96, 374-381. doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.031328
- Ferraro, P., M., Taylor, E., N., Gambaro, G., & Curhan, G., C. (2014). Caffeine intake and the risk of kidney stones. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100, 596-603. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.089987
- Je, Y., Hankinson, S., E., Tworoger, S., S., DeVivo, I., & Giovannucci, E. (2011). A prospective cohort study of coffee consumption and risk of endometrial cancer over a 26-year follow-up. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 20(12), 2487-2495. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.epi-11-0766
- Stoltzfuss, R., J & Dreyfuss, M., L. (n.d.).Guidelines for the use of iron supplements to prevent and treat iron deficiency anemia [Guidelines]. Washington D. C.: International Nutrition Anemia Consultive Group. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/micronutrients/guidelines_for_Iron_supplementation.pdf?ua=1
- World Health Organisation. (2016). IARC Monographs evaluate drinking coffee, maté, and very hot beverages. Retrieved from http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2016/pdfs/pr244_E.pdf