Use Caffeine wisely
Several popular drinks contain caffeine, a substance that has been given a bad rap by many people without an unbiased evaluation. But what is the truth about caffeine, and does it have any health benefits?
For decades, I have used and recommended green tea for its incredible health benefits.This tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant is, after water, the most widely consumed beverage on planet Earth. Green tea contains some natural caffeine. Coffee, made from a bean, is another extremely popular caffeinated beverage. A wide array of soft drinks and 'energy drinks' have now flooded the market place and they all contain caffeine.
What is Caffeine?
Caffeine is known chemically as trimethylxanthine and is medically used to stimulate the heart and to dilate the breathing passages in conditions like asthma. It is also a mild diuretic that can increase urine production.
Socially, it is used to provide a boost of energy or create a feeling of heightened alertness. Pure caffeine is a brain stimulant and is addictive as its effects on the nervous system can be compared to those of the amphetamine drugs.
Caffeine occurs naturally in many plants, including coffee beans, tea leaves and cocoa nuts. However, in these natural substances, the caffeine exists not in isolation, but in combination with hundreds of other active chemicals that can modulate and balance the actions of caffeine itself.
In her unbounded wisdom, Mother Nature often creates her own checks and balances that we often override by isolating and using a single ingredient in a plant. This is what happens when pure caffeine is added artificially to many commercial foods and beverages.
Studies have long shown that tea and coffee are rich sources of health-promoting antioxidants, and researchers have demonstrated that caffeine itself has antioxidant properties. It appears that naturally occurring caffeine may be quite safe and beneficial to health while pure synthetic caffeine has its downside.
How much caffeine:
- Coffee. Typical drip-brewed coffee contains 100mg per six-ounce cup. However, when drunk from a big mug, you may consume up to 20 ounces. You can calculate your milligram consumption based on your serving size.
- Tea. Typical black tea (in regular teabags) contains 70mg per six-ounce cup. Green tea contains only 30mg per six-ounce cup while providing many other health benefits.
- Others. Generally, colas like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, etc, contain 50mg per 12-ounce can. A can of Red Bull contains 80mg, while cocoa or hot chocolate contains 20mg per six-ounce cup. Typically, milk chocolate contains 6mg per ounce. Anacin contains 32mg per tablet, No-doze contains 100mg per tablet, and Dexatrim has 200mg per tablet.
Benefits of caffeine
Up to 200 milligrams of caffeine improves alertness and concentration, and studies suggest that it helps some night-shift workers to maintain concentration, potentially reducing the chances of industrial accidents.
Caffeine ingested 30 minutes before a workout results in up to 30 per cent improvement in endurance, less fatigue, and more rapid recovery.
Caffeine is used in many diet pills, as it breaks down fat into fatty acids, which are immediately burnt. However, this breakdown and burning occurs only when you exercise. Because caffeine is an antioxidant, it may help prevent the development of some types of cancer.
Too much Caffeine
For most healthy adults, moderate doses of caffeine - 200mg, (about two cups of brewed coffee or six cups of green tea) - aren't harmful. However, too much can lead to some unpleasant effects. More than 300to 600mg a day may cause restlessness, irritability, insomnia, nervousness, stomach upset, fast heartbeat or muscle tremors. Caffeine-sensitive individuals may have these side effects from much smaller doses.
Chronically losing sleep whether from work, travel, stress or too much caffeine results in sleep deprivation. Sleep loss is cumulative, and even small nightly decreases can add up and disturb your daytime alertness and performance.
Using caffeine to mask sleep deprivation can create a viscous cycle. You drink caffeinated beverages because you have trouble staying awake during the day, but this keeps you from falling asleep at night.
Caffeine and Medications
Some medications may interact with caffeine. Certain antibiotics can interfere with the breakdown of caffeine and prolong its effect. Taking theophylline, a bronchodilator medicine, along with caffeinated beverages may cause adverse effects, such as nausea, vomiting and heart palpitations.
Alcohol, a nervous-system depressant, is an unhealthy combination with the stimulant caffeine. The popular habit of mixing these two substances should be avoided.
Caffeine and Children
A high caffeine intake is bad for children. It removes calcium from young bones especially in combination with excess sugar.
Phosphorus, found in carbonated soft drinks, accelerates bone loss even more. One soda costs a child as much as 120mg of calcium. Furthermore, drinking a soft drink after a workout also depletes sodium, chloride and potassium levels, causing sore muscles and delayed recovery time after exercise. Sugar plus caffeine aggravates hyperactivity in children.
The best source of caffeine
Yes, caffeine is potentially useful, but how much, and where you get it from is very important. I believe that the best source of caffeine is green tea.
Green tea contains much smaller quantities of caffeine than coffee or black tea. It has a powerful energising and fat-burning effect due to other substances it contains.
Green tea contains potent antioxidants called polyphenols, which can prevent prostate, breast and intestinal cancer. It also has a long list of other health benefits, from lowering cholesterol to preventing tooth decay.
In addition to being energising, green tea also has an anxiety-relieving effect because of the presence of a substance called treanine found only in the tea plant.
So when used wisely and in moderation, caffeine can have many health benefits. But I recommend that you get it from green tea.