Caffeine: Separating Fact from Fiction

You’ve likely heard this before: caffeine is a drug; it’s very addictive and bad for your health. It may cause heart problems and cancer. However, you may have also heard that caffeine in moderation is actually good for you. Who’s right and who’s wrong? With so much information and misinformation out there, it’s hard to know. When it comes to caffeine, it’s time to separate facts from fiction.

Caffeine Is a Drug

Fiction: Caffeine is a hard drug.

Facts: Caffeine is a substance that acts a mild stimulant on the nervous system; therefore for all intents and purposes it is a drug. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, caffeine is categorized as GRAS, meaning generally recognized as safe.

Caffeine Is Addictive

Fiction: Caffeine is seriously addictive.

Facts: Caffeine is mildly addictive. That doesn’t mean kicking the habit is easy, but when compared to other drugs, the withdrawal is markedly different. After all we don’t have major rehab treatment centers for caffeine addiction. And caffeine addiction doesn’t pose the same threats to a person’s health, finances and relationships as narcotics. In addition, caffeine is not among the substances listed on the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s Commonly Abused Drugs List.

Caffeine and Health Problems

Fiction: Caffeine causes no health problems.

Facts: Like any mild stimulant drug, caffeine can pose potential health risks. People with underlying heart problems could suffer serious effects, but for most people caffeine poses no major risk. As far as cardiovascular health goes, moderate caffeine intake does not significantly increase the risk of heart disease or stroke, according to a Harvard University study.

Regarding caffeine and cancer, no studies thus far have found any correlation between caffeine intake and increased cancer risk. To the contrary, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that caffeinated coffee lowered risk of some oral cancers by almost 50 percent.

Caffeine Has No Health Benefits

Fiction: Caffeine has no health benefits.

Facts: There are few proven health benefits when it comes to caffeine, but many potential ones. Consumed in moderation (less than 400 milligrams per day) caffeine may help with cognitive ability. Most people find improved alertness and a mental edge after drinking a caffeinated beverage. And according to a French study, women who consumed caffeine showed slower cognitive decline. Researchers in Japan have also found that caffeine can help boost memory.

In addition to a mental lift, caffeine can also help with depression by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain. Caffeine may also play a role in eye health, protecting against cataracts and eyelid spasms. Muscle pain may also be relieved through caffeine intake according to research from the University of Georgia.

So far the facts state there are some possible health benefits to caffeine after all. As research continues we will most certainly come across more facts and less fiction around caffeine.

Photo: Pexels

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