The Good, Bad, and Ugly Side of Caffeine

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Nadia Simpson HEALTH ,,,,

Whether you are rushing to your 8am class, surviving an all-nighter or just trying to keep your eyes open during meetings, we all know what provides the ultimate pick-me-up: A good ol’ cup of Joe, a can of Redbull or a 5-hour energy shot [for those who dare].

Caffeine: How much is too much?

 Caffeine is the most consumed psychoactive drug in the world [Yes, drug]. According to the FDA, a moderate dose of caffeine is between 100 to 200 milligrams, which is approximately between one to two 5-ounce (147.8 mL) cups of coffee per day. However, you should bear in mind that everyone is different and the effects of caffeine can vary with your gender and size.

Are you consuming too much caffeine?  There are several caffeine content charts online, such as this one, which you can view to make sure you aren’t drinking too much caffeine.

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The Good

Oh, the good. Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant and allows us to stay alert for those early morning lectures and meetings. Due to the fact that consuming caffeine promotes adrenaline production:

  • It can speed up the body’s metabolism rate
  • Decrease the risk of heart and liver disease
  • Increase the body’s ability for muscle recovery and physical performance.

In addition, caffeine also promotes dopamine production, which allows you to feel happy and this is one of the reasons many find it difficult to stop drinking caffeinated beverages. Furthermore, according to the National Parkinson Foundation, studies show that moderate consumption of caffeine reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease. For more benefits of caffeine, please click here.

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The Bad

While the positive effects of caffeine seem worth it, there are downsides. According to The Caffeine Informer and Mayo Clinic, drinking more than 4 cups of coffee has been linked to

  • Increased mortality rate in men
  • Higher blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension.

Please check this link out for more information on the harmful effects of caffeine.

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The Ugly: Caffeine Addiction

To truly understand how caffeine can be addictive, it is important to understand its metabolic process.

When you are awake, a chemical called Adenosine is produced. The longer you are awake, the more Adenosine is produced in your brain. Adenosine makes you feel drowsy; this is because when it attaches to the Adenosine receptors in your brain, it slows down brain activity. Once you go to sleep, the amount of the chemical attached to the receptors decrease and this promotes wakefulness.

The way caffeine works is it blocks these receptors in your brain and does the opposite of adenosine: it speeds up your brains activity. Caffeine is able to compete with Adenosine, as they both are very similar in structure.

However, with long-term consumption of caffeine, the brain begins to create more Adenosine receptors and thus, causes individuals to become addicted to caffeine. This process is called “tolerance”. This is because you may find that when you decrease your caffeine consumption, your energy levels are depleted faster and you end up needing more caffeine daily.

Furthermore, decreasing caffeine intake can cause many withdrawal symptoms. According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine, withdrawal symptoms include irritability, headaches, fatigue and even muscle pain.

The Unbearable: Can you overdose on caffeine?

Another concern people have about caffeine is overdosing on it [Not in a colloquial manner; we’re talking ‘actually die of caffeine’]. You can overdose on caffeine and die if you consume around 150 mg of it per kg.

To put this into perspective, if you are 70kgs, you would need to consume 131.6 cans of Redbull or drink 136.9 espressos to die of caffeine overdose. While drinking over 130 cups of coffee or cans of Redbull can kill you, it will take quite a bit of money and you would have to drink over 130 Redbulls or espressos consecutively, which your stomach’s capacity could not hold [And you have to be raging mad to try- not the good kind].

Despite the rare chance of caffeine overdose, it is very [very] important that you consume caffeine in moderation. Keeping that in mind, drink up and enjoy the buzz of adrenaline and dopamine!
Heavy daily use [over 500 mg a day] may cause insomnia, nervousness, upset stomach, or even muscle tremors. With some people more sensitive to caffeine than others, knowing and staying within your limit is vital.

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