Caffeine: Yay or Nay?

By Angela Hartley on 16 April 2021

Good morning!

I hope you are enjoying the glorious sunshine we’ve been having the last few days.  What a glorious mood everyone is in –  let’s hope it stays this way.  And it’s barbecue weather at last! We used it a lot last summer as it is quick and requires hardly any cleaning (gas barbecue all the way!). Be careful not to burn your food though (that’s a health story for another day, plus food tastes terrible when it’s burnt!). I even made homemade beetroot burgers (go me!) and they didn’t fall apart on the barbecue…. And other people ate them and didn’t complain so they can’t have tasted too bad. 

This week I looked into the pros and cons of caffeine.  Now this is a hot topic. Does it matter what science thinks? It seems that you could be told that it was poison and there’d still be a queue out the street at the best coffee shop in town. It’s addictive (because when you find a good coffee there’s NOTHING better!). But is it good for us? Should we be (thinking about) cutting down? And what about heart patients? Does it make things better mentally (especially when it’s something to look forward to in the morning)? And what’s the payoff physically (does it set your atrial fibrillation off even though research says it shouldn’t? Then avoid it!). If you’ve had a heart attack recently, can coffee be a good stimulant to keep you awake when that afternoon fatigue sets in? You bet! But if it’s keeping you awake because you are then over-stimulated at night (and so the cycle continues where you are tired the following day), then no, it’s not a good idea.

There seems to be quite a lot of proof both ways, however the research is usually conducted on a high intake of caffeine (4 cups+ per day).  I would recommend that the less caffeine you have the better, as your body starts to rely on it.  It’s most important to listen to your own body however, as some people can tolerate it much better than others (i.e don’t shoot the messenger). See below for the benefits and drawbacks (don’t shoot the messenger!).

This week I looked into the pros and cons of caffeine.  Now this is a hot topic. Does it matter what science thinks? It seems that you could be told that it was poison and there’d still be a queue out the street at the best coffee shop in town. It’s addictive (because when you find a good coffee there’s NOTHING better!). But is it good for us? Should we be (thinking about) cutting down? And what about heart patients? Does it make things better mentally (especially when it’s something to look forward to in the morning)? And what’s the payoff physically (does it set your atrial fibrillation off even though research says it shouldn’t? Then avoid it!). If you’ve had a heart attack recently, can coffee be a good stimulant to keep you awake when that afternoon fatigue sets in? You bet! But if it’s keeping you awake because you are then over-stimulated at night (and so the cycle continues where you are tired the following day), then no, it’s not a good idea.

There seems to be quite a lot of proof both ways, however the research is usually conducted on a high intake of caffeine (4 cups+ per day).  I would recommend that the less caffeine you have the better, as your body starts to rely on it.  It’s most important to listen to your own body however, as some people can tolerate it much better than others (i.e don’t shoot the messenger). See below for the benefits and drawbacks (don’t shoot the messenger!).

Positive effects of caffeine:

  • Increased alertness, productivity and concentration through the release of adrenaline.
  • May improve memory and cognition.
  • Improved performance in athletes.
  • Has been shown to help prevent Type 2 diabetes in some people, however may make the blood sugar levels of those with diabetes worse.

Negative effects of caffeine:

 

  • Caffeine can cause physical dependence, requiring more to get the same effect.
  • Withdrawal:  you’ll likely develop withdrawal symptoms like extreme fatigue and splitting headaches (caused by ­constricted blood vessels).
  • Disrupted sleep: Generally it takes about 6 hours for the caffeine to clear your system, although it varies from person to person.
  • Too much caffeine is associated with reduced coordination, insomnia, headaches, nervousness and dizziness.
  • Ingesting excessive amounts can also put a strain on the heart and is linked with increased blood pressure and raised blood cholesterol in large amounts.
  • Coffee may increase osteoporosis – coffee can cause the body to excrete calcium in urine, and loss of calcium can lead to osteoporosis.
  • Disrupts blood sugar levels – can cause the same highs and lows as consuming sugar.
  • Some people find that it triggers off palpitations and atrial fibrillation. This has never been proven in research however I would say that it’s personal to you and if it seems to trigger AF for you, then avoid, avoid, avoid!

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