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Harms and Benefits of Caffeine
Episode 429th March 2023 • What The Health: News & Information To Live Well & Feel Good • John Salak
00:00:00 00:17:44

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In this episode of What the Health, we explore the world of caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant found in various beverages and foods. While it's a popular ingredient in the diet of many, caffeine's effects on the body can be both positive and negative, depending on individual factors. 

Caffeine can be a double-edged sword, with both advantages and disadvantages to its consumption. As with any dietary choice, it's essential to be informed and mindful of the caffeine you consume to ensure you're not putting your health at risk. You can enjoy the potential health benefits while avoiding the negative effects by drinking coffee, tea, and other caffeine-containing beverages and foods in moderation. We delve into the pros, cons, and confusion surrounding caffeine, helping our listeners make informed choices about their health.

[0:00:00]:  "Exploring the Pros and Cons of Caffeine: A Discussion on the Good, the Bad, and the Confusing"

[0:01:29]: Caffeine Consumption: An Overview of Common Foods and Drinks

[0:03:24]: Caffeine Content in Popular Beverages and Foods

[0:05:11]: "The Dangers and Benefits of Caffeine Consumption"

[0:10:32]: Caffeine Consumption: Symptoms of Excessive Intake and Health Hacks

[0:12:34]: Health Hacks for Dealing with Caffeine: Natural Energy Boosters for People and Pets

[0:13:56:] Natural Energy Boosts to Replace Caffeine

[0:15:58]: "The Buzz on Caffeine: Understanding the Pros and Cons of Caffeine Intake"

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John Salak: Let's face it, there's a big buzzer around caffeine, whether it's good for you or not. A lot of this buzz is driven by well-meaning research, some of which promotes its benefits, while other studies seem to warn that well couple cups of coffee or tea daily can be a health menace. So since What the Health just took a deep dive into insomnia and sleep deprivation or our last podcast, it's kind of fitting we look at caffeine, the good, the bad, and the confusing.

What's clear from our research and reporting at WellWell USA is that caffeine tends to have different impacts on people based on their pre-existing conditions, their age, and the amount they consume. Too much at the wrong time can lead to serious health consequences.

Yet there's plenty of research that indicates a couple mugs of Joe Daley can bring all sorts of benefits, including possibly living longer and warding off dementia. , regardless of its benefits and drawbacks. What's clear is we consume a lot of caffeine in our common foods and drinks many times without realizing it.

Oh yeah. What is caffeine? Well, it's technically identified as a central nervous stimulant and it's found in coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks, and cola sodas among other foods and drinks. Ultimately, we get most of it from coffee and we Americans just love our coffee. Here's some stats that you'll find interesting.

We consume more than 500 million cups of coffee a day in the United States. The average American coffee drinker knocks back over three cups of coffee per day. And what's particularly interesting or worrisome about that, this is that these three plus cups of coffee a day already cover our daily recommended limit for caffeine, which is placed at about 400 milligrams.

65% of coffee drinkers prefer a cup with their breakfast, and that's understandable. About a third of coffee drinkers like it black. I like it black as well. I think it makes me look really kind of cool. And for those keeping records, the US leads in total coffee consumption. However, the per capita winner goes to Finland.

Fins drink about four cups of coffee a day, and that's about a third more than we consume in the us. So yes, coffee may be our prime source of caffeine, but it also comes in a lot of other forms that not all these forms hold the same amount of caffeine, and that's why it's tricky to gauge how much caffeine you may be consuming in a day.

Let's look at some numbers from the Mayo. Brewed coffee, irregular eight ounce cup, 96 milligrams of caffeine, a one notch shot of espresso, 64 milligrams, brewed black tea eight ounces, 47 milligrams. Brewed green tea, eight ounces, 28 milligrams. Can of soda, you're probably talking about 25 to 30 milligrams of caffeine.

Not to mention sugar too. Energy drinks. We all know these popular energy drinks. A regular eight ounce serving has about 82 milligrams of caffeine. What about those energy shots? They come in two ounce containers. They each contain a whopping 215 milligrams of caffeine. So this means if you take two energy shots a day, you've already exceeded your daily recommended limit on caffeine, which is at 400 milligrams.

How about chocolate? Everybody loves chocolate. Almost everybody loves chocolate. Oh yeah. In case you're wondering, chocolate gets its caffeine from the cocoa bean, let's say a three and a half ounce piece of chocolate. Well, if you're consuming pure chocolate, which is a hundred percent cocoa, you're getting about 240 milligrams of caffeine in that piece.

That three and a half ounce piece, that's equivalent to two and a half cups of coffee. Admittedly, I don't know anybody who's eating pure 100% cocoa chocolate. There maybe some, but I don't know anyone. But certainly cocoa, cocoa powder chocolate is mixed in in a lot of different foods that then adds caffeine where you might not be expecting it.

Think of tiramisu. But there are other forms of chocolate that people just love. My wife loves bittersweet chocolate. Let's say she's eating bittersweet chocolate, which contains 55% in cocoa. Well, that three and a half ounce piece is gonna deliver 124 milligrams of caffeine. I like milk chocolate.. Let's say my milk chocolate has 33% cocoa.

That's gonna deliver 45 milligrams of caffeine. Now, a lot of people, when they start munching on chocolate can go through more than three and a half ounces at a time, especially let's say at Halloween, where there's chocolate sitting around or at Easter where those wonderful Easter baskets are sitting there.

With dark and milk chocolate Easter bunnies and all those little Easter eggs and things like that. You can go through more than three and a half ounces pretty easily. And also something to note about bittersweet chocolate. Sure, we identified chocolate with 55% cocoa, but you can get bittersweet chocolate over the counter that goes up to 70 and I believe 80% in cocoa.

So, easy to take that 124 milligram number and crack it up a lot higher. So you can see it's easy to pile on caffeine without realizing it. We also know that caffeine comes in many forms and consuming too much of it is not a great idea, especially for those with preexisting conditions. But what are the specific dangers? Well, we've pulled together some of the most serious, but the level of danger is gonna vary from person to person based on their preexisting conditions and other factors.

And here's an example of that and something that we reported on in WellWell USA. Drinking two or more cups of coffee a day may double the risk of death from cardiovascular disease for people with severe high blood pressure. Another example, the University of South Australia warned that heavy coffee consumption, and they're talking about six cups a day or more, raises the risk of cardiovascular disease by increasing the amount of lipids in a person's blood.

Other warnings, excessive consumption can increase blood pressure. It can promote osteoporosis. Pregnant women need to be particularly aware of the dangers of drinking coffee because it can increase fetal heartbeats in their unborn children. In general, coffee and caffeine can promote heart disease. It can raise bad cholesterol levels in the body.

It can increase the risk of rheumatic diseases. It can increase the risk of strokes. It can also damage blood vessels, which can inhibit the flow of blood throughout the body. Those are all pretty significant dangers. It's not all bad news. Caffeine and moderation is not all that bad. In fact, it may be good for you, at least that's what a growing raft of research indicates.

And here are some examples and all of these have been reported on. And WellWell USA go to the site, do a keyword search. You'll find these in other stories. The stories will provide more detail. It will also provide links to primary socialists so you can dig further on. , but here's some example of the potential benefits of coffee and caffeine.

It can fight dementia. One study indicated that two to three cups a day, particularly of older women, can offset the onslaught of Alzheimer's and dementia. Let's be clear about this, coffee. Caffeine is not a silver bullet when it comes to these diseases. What the study indicated is that women who drink two to three cups of coffee a day, particularly older women, seem to have a lower risk of Dementia and Alzheimer's.

Now coffee, caffeine can also increase stamina, endurance, and strength. One study indicated that it might be particularly effective at building muscle and power in the upper body. The Harvard School of Public Health reported that individuals who grabbed two to three cups of caffeinated coffee a day cut their suicide risk by 45%.

Harvard speculated that the reason for this is that coffee has the ability to stimulate and ultimately improve a person's mood. Well, if you have a better mood, you're less likely to harm yourself. Some. Some studies have shown caffeine, coffee, other factors, other caffeine loaded foods and beverages can lower the risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancer.

It also lowers the risk of recurrence in survivors. Caffeine has also been used as an appetite suppressant. In fact, it's used in a lot of the over-the-counter weight loss pills. Now, we are not recommending these pills as part of a weight loss program, but we can't deny that they are used or that caffeine is used as an appetite suppressant, and it has been for some time.

More recently, there's growing research that indicates coffee may actually offset the risk of Parkinson's disease type two diabetes and liver disease. Now here comes maybe the ultimate boost. The European Journal of Prevented Cardiology recently reported that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day may help people live longer.

And it's basing this findings on the cumulative or the potential cumulative impact of coffee on the things we've listed, whether it's potential to offset cancer, lower the risk of Parkinson's or diabetes, or other diseases, and this cumulative effect. Seems to help people who drink two to three cups of coffee a day live longer than those who may not.

The study suggested that coffee by itself isn't doing this coffee or caffeine by itself is doing this, but it's combined impact to offset or lower the risk of several diseases has a cumulative impact of increasing individuals who drink two to three cups of coffee. The longevity of these individuals, and again, this is compared to people who do not drink coffee on a regular basis.

So how much is too much? We noted that it about 400 milligrams a day is a recommended daily limit. In and of itself, it sounds easy enough to gauge that, oh, I've had two to three cups of coffee. I'm pretty good. Or I can have two, I can have one more cup of coffee. I'm not gonna exceed my limit. But these milligrams can also be found in six to eight cups of green tea, seven to 10 cans of soda energy drinks, chocolate even foods that, that are blended in with cocoa and other factors for flavoring.

So it's easy to exceed that recommended level without realizing. Two to three cups of coffee, a chocolate bar, an energy drink. You're having two to three cans of diet soda whammy. You're already at the 600 milligram level. And that's a level that a lot of this research seems to indicate is a danger zone.

Now, it doesn't mean that you exceed it on one day you know you're in danger. But if you exceed this level chronically, you can create problems, at least that's where problems are in health. Risks are increased. So how do you know you've taken on too much caffeine? There are a number of symptoms that we're gonna give you.

These symptoms may indicate you've taken on too much caffeine. They may also indicate you have other problems. It may indicate you have other problems plus caffeine, plus an excessive amount of caffeine. So if you are getting these symptoms on a chronic daily basis, first thing we recommend that you do is to go see your doctor, your healthcare professional.

They can give you a much better assessment of what's happening. And in the meantime, we're also gonna give you some health access to how you can lower or provide alternates to caffeine if you think you're drinking too much of it or you're having problems with it. But here are some symptoms that indicate you may be taking on too much caffeine on a chronic basis.

Headaches, anxiety, trouble sleeping, irritability, increased heartbeats, increased thirst, increased visits to the bathroom and chest pain. You have these symptoms on a chronic basis, not a one-off basis. Chances are you may be consuming too much caffeine. There may be other problems as well. Please, please, please go visit your doctor, your healthcare professional if you're getting these symptoms on a regular basis.

Now, before we give you our health tax tied to this podcast, we wanted, as usual, to flag you to a special offer from one of our affiliates, Grateful Earth Coffee, and these guys promote best health and environmental practice in developing their products are now offering members of our WellWell-Being community, a 20% discount on all their purchases.

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You can do it in seconds. You'll get a 20% off Grateful Earth Coffee purchases, along with hundreds of other discounts and opportunities. Okay. What about some healthful hacks in dealing with caffeine? The good and the bad this doesn't deal with people, but it does deal with. Pooches that we love.

If you love your pooch, don't give phyto any caffeine products. It'll lead to all sorts of intestinal problems that you won't want to deal with and your poor dog will want to deal with either. That's one of the reasons why you often see warnings never to give your dog chocolate products. So please avoid any caffeine for your dog.

Obviously, you're not gonna give them a cup of coffee, they're not gonna drink it, but don't flip 'em some chocolate or a big plate of leftover tiramisu or whatever. Okay, let's say you'd like coffee, you want to drink coffee, but you'd like to find some alternatives for energy boost, or you don't want to go and grab the energy boosting.

Of beverages or shots. Okay. Here are three natural, all natural energy boosters, coconut water. You can get this virtually anywhere now. It gives you a boost in energy thanks to its minerals that it's loaded with minerals, including potassium, wheat, grass juice. This is also loaded with minerals, vitamins at anti-inflammatory properties, and it's a great way to get a natural energy boost.

Beet juice. Full disclosure, I hate beets and I hate bee juice, though I fully recognize the health benefits of beets and bee juice. Now this bee juice is great because the body turns beets and beet juice into nitric oxide, which builds blood flow, energy and endurance. So it's a great way boost energy naturally.

And, you know, as a substitute for coffee late in the afternoon, it's easy to get wheat grass juice and bee juice from any of the growing number of healthy juice stores that are all over the country. Coconut water can be purchased almost everywhere.

Don't sweat. Kambucha, you're gonna see a lot of stories now, or there have been a lot of stories of late on whether kambucha is loaded with alcohol and caffeine. Our research indicates there's very little alcohol in Kambucha. There a little bit comes up from the fermentation process rather, but very, very little In terms of caffeine, yes, there is some caffeine in kambucha, but the average serving holds only eight to 12 milligrams. So it doesn't have a big overall impact on your daily caffeine intake. So that, Oh yes. Remember those chocolate covered espresso beans?

I've had 'em. I love them. Once you start munching, you can't stop, but you may want to severely limit munching down on those guys. They're gonna give you a double caffeine whammy. You're gonna get caffeine off the bean, and you're gonna get caffeine off the chocolate, and you can eat a lot of these guys without realizing it.

And all of a sudden you're on a heavy caffeine buzz. So if you see them, sure, grab a couple. Push 'em away after a little while, you're not gonna do yourself any good. Okay, so did we come up with an absolute answer as to whether caffeine is good or bad for you? Absolutely not. Chances are, for the vast majority of people, caffeine via coffee, tea, chocolate, you're probably gonna be fine.

And perhaps, It's gonna be beneficial certainly in moderation, but too much is probably going to be a problem just about for everybody. And since caffeine is found in so many common foods and drinks. It's easy to exceed the recommended daily limits, and it's easy to do this on a regular basis. It's not a problem if you probably do it one or two days a week or once every now and again.

But if you're knocking back four or five cups of coffee, chocolate, soda, and energy, drink green tea. Half a plate of tiramisu every day, you're going over that 400 milligram daily recommended limit, and you're going over it extensively, and you may be putting yourself at health risk. So how do you keep this at Bay?

Education and Action. Recognize where caffeine is found in common sources and, recognize how to build a healthy intake of caffeine a day without exceeding it. Education and action is always the key to leading a better and healthier life, whether that deals with caffeine or fitness or nutrition or anything else.

So we hope this helped. We hoped you got some insights on the buzz on caffeine and you enjoyed it. We look forward to you listening in again later. Thanks.