Nothing beats a steamy cup of coffee in the morning or during a cold day. This famous drink has surely carved its way into every coffee-lover’s heart. It had made coffee hours a part of the daily routine of any person who just loves coffee, thus, making it the star of every coffee break. This drink is popularly regarded as an energizer that helps keep us alert and awake, even in sleep deprivation.
Whether you crave for cappuccino, caffe latte, mocha, Irish coffee, or just the simple espresso or Americano; just take your pick. Coffee is always a sweet indulgence for anyone who have been captivated by its tempting aroma and rich taste combined. This combination of taste and aroma makes it more enticing and creates every distinctive flavour any coffee drink has to offer.
Whilst the popularity of coffee has become rampant nowadays, one of its major components is also gaining an equally tremendous popularity. This component is becoming more popular for its so-called ‘adverse’ effects on coffee consumers. It goes by the common name of caffeine, belonging to a heterocyclic compound of the purine family. It has been identified as an alkaloid and tastes intensely bitter.
Since we all love coffee, or even if you don’t, this one’s for everybody who wants to know more about the effects of caffeine to our health and body. After all, this could help eradicate the stereotype tagged to caffeine or coffee. Is it really addictive? How harmful is it? What does it really do to us?
Sources of caffeine aside from coffee
Caffeine is one of the major components of coffee. It is known to ward off sleep and increase alertness both in humans and animals. There are roughly around sixty plant species discovered to have caffeine contents. Certain amounts or concentrations of caffeine are detected to be present in different plant parts; particularly having high content percentage in the leaves and the highest in the seeds.
Among the plants said to have high caffeine contents, most well-known sources are coffee beans, tea leaves, kola nuts, and cacao or cocoa beans. More natural sources include yaupon holly, guarana berries, guayusa and yerba mate.
Caffeine is also prepared synthetically. It can be found in numerous pharmacological preparations such as prescription and over-the-counter medicines. It is usually identified as component of some analgesics, cold and flu remedies, diet-aids, and other pain relievers. It is also added to some food preparations like soft drinks and energy drinks.
Amounts of caffeine in certain foods and beverages
Recent studies have shown that the average caffeine considered safe for human consumption is at 400mg a day. That is roughly about four to five regular cups of coffee. Below is a table on certain amounts of caffeine content in specific amounts of beverages.
CCaffeine content of common beverages:
Source: NCA, Aug 1999. www.coffeescience.org
Another table shows varied caffeine contents from different food and beverage sources:
Although it was commonly believed that the caffeine contents of coffee depend on the roasting degrees, caffeine levels actually remains as is regardless of the roasting degrees or process. However, darker roasts pose higher caffeine content when brewed because the beans are lighter. Thus, it requires more coffee to achieve the desirable throw weight.
Caffeine content in coffee beverages varies depending on the type of coffee used, Robusta having higher caffeine content than Arabica. It also varies depending on the brewing method. 90% of caffeine in coffee is extracted in the first minute of brewing. Other factors attributed to the variation of caffeine concentrations or levels in coffee beverages are grind level, temperature, and extraction time.
Effects of caffeine in various aspects of human health
Caffeine has been tagged as the most commonly abused substance dubbed to have addictive properties. However, the American Psychiatric Association has ruled out this notion on caffeine. According to the study they conducted, there are several factors that do not let caffeine to pass as an addictive substance. From being on the list of harmful substances posing some addictive attributions to its consumers, caffeine is only regarded by APA as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, as it is, blocking adenosine receptors in the brain.
Up to now, it has never been proven that caffeine has a totally adverse effect on consumers. Consumption even at a longer period of time, provided that it is within the normal or allowable range, does not make caffeine any more dangerous at all. Most negative claims regarding the effects of caffeine to its users are still unfounded and merely clichés.
Whilst it is true that caffeine is a CNS stimulant, further and thorough studies is yet to be conducted to prove that caffeine is indeed an extremely harmful substance. In fact, it is even considered to have a key potential in helping to prevent neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. People with prolonged coffee drinking have been discovered as less likely to develop these brain-damaging disorders because of caffeine.
Other diseases, disorders, and health concerns associated with caffeine consumption have been gradually studied and researched upon by different cohorts’ efforts. This is done to give a straightforward answer to every question posed against the true effects of caffeine on its consumers. Ill effects attributed to caffeine intakes are apparently cleared out due to reasons that; other components of medicines, foods, and beverages are contributing to the adverse effects formerly associated and blamed to caffeine alone.
On the other hand, scientists have always reminded the public that caffeine intake should always be within the specific limits of no more than 400mg per day for the average adult. Much lesser amounts are recommended for children, pregnant and lactating women, and those with existing health conditions and taking medications. Caffeine may react with other medicated substances so it is always best to consult your health practitioner regarding the matter.
Effects of caffeine vary from person to person, as well as anyone’s sensitivity to it. It can also be dictated or affected by each individual’s genetic make-up. Mental alertness, increased physical activity, and keen focus are just some of the benefits of caffeine.
Withdrawal from it may have uncomfortable effects if done abruptly, but would normally take only a few days to be totally gone. Nausea, vomiting, restlessness, headaches, and fatigue are some of the unpleasant effects or withdrawal syndrome associated with abrupt cessation of caffeine intake.
It’s really not that bad at all
Whilst others may claim of how bad caffeine and coffee could be, it is always subject to verifications and further studies. So it’s never always reliable to just put all the blame to caffeine or coffee for anything unfounded and vaguely proven.
Cheers to all the coffee drinkers and coffee lovers out there! We will never be alone for we are one with the millions of coffee consumers all around the globe. So don’t let anything or anyone restrain you from enjoying your all-time favourite – that steamy cup of coffee that always makes you feel refreshed and energized. Go ahead and indulge! After all, you might be saving your own brain from getting degenerated, right?