Is Caffeine Bad for You?
Saturday, September 12, 2015 - Author: Cheryl Lamb
Coffee is bandied about by the media almost every other day. Because so many people love their morning coffee, it's easy for a copy editor to sling together a grabby title on a tight time budget as long as it asserts something about our favorite brew. "Coffee Extends Lives," one article may claim. Another might assert that "Your Morning Addiction is Killing You!" Either way, people listen up. Unfortunately, this makes it harder to get at the truth.
The truth of the matter is that coffee, like so many things, is good in moderation and bad in excess. That's a vague answer, so we're going to explore it point by point.
The primary benefits of coffee stem from the primary reason people drink it: its caffeine content. Caffeine is a chemically-unique, potent stimulant that inhibits the chemicals that let us fall asleep. It isn't the best stimulant on the open market for focus, but few can beat it where alertness is concerned. This makes it ideal for people who have an easier time starting their morning with a jolt. As a stimulant, caffeine increases your heart rate and metabolism. While this is billed in diet pills as a tool for "burning fat," it's more specifically about increasing the speed at which your body processes the substances that fuel it. Without the attendant exercise and alteration of diet, caffeine won't help you lose weight. However, the increase in metabolism will nicely complement proper effort put forward toward that goal. Starting your day with a cup of coffee can leave you primed for whatever comes next, including your cardio regimen.
On the flip side of this, an excess of caffeine can induce your heart rate to increase beyond healthy levels. This can have a similar effect to working yourself too hard in an exercise routine. The benefits will be lost underneath the damage done by the strain. This sort of behavior is associated with hypertension in the long term. However, this sort of issue requires an excess of caffeine. A healthy adult ingesting a moderate amount of coffee won't experience these difficulties as readily.
Caffeine's stimulant properties hold a variety of benefits for brain function. It keeps you alert by blocking the neurotransmitter adenosine. However, blocking adenosine has other effects beyond keeping you awake. Studies indicate that it improves reaction times and general cognition. Blocking adenosine induces the brain to release increased levels of norepenephrine and dopamine, some of the chemicals responsible for keeping you feeling good and capable, as well as keeping your neurons firing. In other words, drinking coffee won't teach you calculus, but it will warm your brain up to study it.
Once again, the line is drawn at coffee taken in excess. Drinking too much coffee can have detrimental effects on a person's psychological and emotional wellbeing. Increased vigilance can spill over into hypervigilance. Increased neuronal function absent proper stimulation will leave a person feeling nervous, aimless and frustrated without a clear source. A poorly-regulated coffee habit can also become a caffeine addiction, which can spell trouble if your morning routine is disrupted.
The purest benefit that can be drawn from coffee is its nutrient content. Coffee contains notable quantities of antioxidants, potassium, manganese and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B5. It isn't a replacement for a multivitamin, but it's a supplement of nutrients that can be easy to miss in the average professional diet.
The bottom line is that coffee can be good for you.
The important thing is to treat it with due respect. It's an easy-to-imbibe source of a powerful stimulant. Overindulgence can bring you into a world of hurt if you let yourself get carried away, and that's to say nothing of what it can do with creams and sugars thrown into the mix. Keep aware of your habits, though, and coffee can treat your body and brain nicely as a fine component of your morning routine.