Most people seem to feel a bit guilty that they rely on caffeine to keep them going in their day. But, should we feel guilty about our caffeine addiction? We know that excess caffeine can contribute to insomnia and trouble sleeping, as well as heart palpitations in people who are sensitive to it. And, pregnant and lactating people should avoid subjecting their babies to caffeine.
But, is caffeine all bad? The short answer is “no.” Caffeine actually has some health benefits. I hit the research databases to find out what the science says about caffeine and any health benefits it offers. Before I delve into my findings, let’s explore caffeine a bit first.
Caffeine is a compound found in coffee beans, tea leaves, kola nuts, yerba mate, guarana berries and cacao (which is used to make chocolate). It has stimulant properties—that’s what gives us its trademark energy boost. It is often added to energy drinks, soft drinks and other energy-enhancing products to give people an energy boost. Here are several ways in which caffeine can also give us a health boost:
Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that regular coffee consumption lowers the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Research in the journal Neurobiology of Aging found that moderate caffeine intake was beneficial to animals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. More research needs to be done to assess the effects on humans, but it sounds promising.
In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois, scientists found that caffeine may specifically block brain inflammation linked with brain diseases.
Inflammation has been linked to most chronic health conditions, so anything that helps reduce inflammation in the body is welcome. Fortunately, a study published in the medical journal Amino Acids found that caffeine supplementation combined with moderate swimming, reduced inflammation. Obviously, not at the same time.
While there is still some controversy over the effects of caffeine, an assessment of 12 studies of almost 350,000 people, researchers found that a small amount of coffee with low levels of caffeine had a protective effect against depression. So, if you’re a depression sufferer or at risk of depression, you might want to stick to a single cup of low caffeine coffee daily.
When it comes to caffeine and its effects on diabetes, it turns out the compound favors men. According to a study published in International Psychogeriatrics, researchers found that higher caffeine consumption was associated with reduced risk of diabetes in men but had the opposite effect on women—increasing their risk of diabetes. So, if you’re a woman prone to diabetes, you might want to go easy on the caffeine intake.
Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that coffee consumption could reduce the risk of death linked to heart disease. It’s not clear whether the caffeine or the other compounds in coffee are to thank for the heart-protective benefits.
OVERALL RISK OF DYING
The same American Journal of Epidemiology study found that coffee consumption reduced the incidence of “all-cause mortality.” All-cause mortality simply refers to the general incidence of death from non-specific causes. The study found that the greatest reduction in all-cause mortality risk was in people who drank four cups of coffee daily.
According to research published in the medical journal Scientific Reports, your daily cup of joe may significantly reduce your cancer risk. The researchers compared coffee consumption and incidence of cancer. They found that those who drank coffee on a daily basis had a reduced risk of seven different types of cancer, including: oral, pharynx, liver, colon, melanoma, prostate and endometrial cancers.
Women who drank 4 cups of coffee daily had a 25 percent reduction in endometrial cancer, according to a study published in the medical journal Nutrition and Cancer.
In a study published in Topics in Current Chemistry, researchers found that animals developed 27 percent fewer skin cancer growths when they were fed caffeine than those who did not get caffeine.