Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in tea, coffee, and chocolate and can affect each person differently. Moderate amounts of caffeine may be beneficial to your health, while too much can be harmful.
Caffeine can be beneficial in many ways
Caffeine can block the brain-signaling molecule adenosine, which causes a relative increase in other signaling molecules such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Increases in dopamine and norepinephrine have been known to improve mood and brain function and to decrease the likelihood of depression and protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Thus, moderate amounts of caffeine may aid in these effects.
Consuming small amounts of caffeine about an hour before exercise is likely to improve exercise performance. Caffeine can help the glucose stored in muscles last longer, potentially delaying the time it takes to exhaust your muscles, which may increase the use of fat as fuel.
Drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea may also reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver damage, premature death, liver cancer, skin cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
Is too much caffeine harmful?
Considering caffeine’s benefits, some people think of caffeinated beverages as healthy drinks, but overindulging can cause side effects. Some of the side effects of excess caffeine intake include anxiety, restlessness, tremors, and irregular heartbeat. Too much caffeine may also promote headaches, migraines, insomnia, and high blood pressure.
Researchers from the University of Basel found in a recent study that regular caffeine intake can change the gray matter of the brain inside the hippocampus, a region that is essential to memory consolidation, but the effect appears to be temporary. Further research is required to find out whether caffeine consumption has a negative impact on the brain.
How much caffeine should I consume?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the European Food Safety Authority, a daily intake of 400 mg of caffeine is generally safe, which amounts to 2–4 cups of coffee per day. Both institutions recommend limiting the amount of caffeine consumed at one time to 200 mg.
If you find yourself sensitive to caffeine, you may wish to experiment in small amounts until you find the amount that does not cause side effects. Consider starting with 50 mg of caffeine daily and then slightly increasing or decreasing from there.
Since people react differently to caffeine, there is no amount that is ideal for everyone. Consuming caffeine daily in moderation will usually not pose a health problem for healthy adults. But please be mindful of the possible side effects and be ready to cut back if necessary.