I am not a coffee addict, but I could easily be one. I've been loving coffee ever since I can remember it, and since I know I would easily fall prey of its charm, I purposely drink it only every now and then. It's usually my treat on Saturday morning. :-) Nevertheless, "America runs on... coffee", and countless people in this country depend on this magic elixir, often ignoring most misconceptions regarding the properties - and harms - of caffeine. Recent studies have shown that coffee might be much less evil than previously thought, especially if consumed in moderation. Here are a few points to keep in mind. (Sources: WebMD)
OUR CHILDREN. There has been plenty of debate about the harms of coffee to our children, but recent studies are finding other components associated with coffee much more dangerous to their health. The quantity of coffee our children are consuming is generally not alarming. However, the amount of sugar they consume in coffee is much more concerning, because sugar does expose them to more significant health risks, including cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. To be frank, it's not coffee we should be worried about, but rather how much and how often our children consume soda and energy drinks, which contain much more caffeine than coffee, and are loaded with sugar and sugar substitutes.
ONLY A LIGHT DEHYDRATION. It is true that caffeine does act as a light diuretic, but only overdosing on coffee would generate the type of dehydration that would significantly affect our body.
INSOMNIA: YES AND NO. Unless we are particularly sensitive to the stimulant properties of caffeine, if we make sure we don't consume caffeinated drinks - and foods - after 6 hours before going to bed, our sleep should not be affected.
SOME HEALTH BENEFITS. Scientific studies might show what coffee-lovers have been preaching forever. Although more research is needed to confirm these findings, caffeine seems to increase energy level, improve concentration and alertness, sharpen long-term memory, provide help in certain types of headaches, and alleviate some cases of asthma. This doesn't mean we should bathe in coffee, though, as these studies still need plenty of additional evidence.
ONLY A MILD ADDICTION. Caffeine does trigger a light physical dependency, but in no way it should be compared with alcohol and drugs addiction. As a stimulant to our brain, abrupt cessation of caffeine intake can easily cause headache, fatigue, anxiety and concentration problems; however, it doesn't have the dramatic impact on our health alcohol and drugs do when in withdrawal. Caffeine addiction seems to be less serious than we think.
CAFFEINE AND SOME HEALTH PROBLEMS. Recent studies show no harm in healthy adults who consume up to 3 cups of coffee per day. It's true that older individuals and those suffering from hypertension may be more sensitive - and vulnerable - to coffee consumption; however, coffee seems to be less harmful in some medical condition that previously considered. For instance, if we are getting enough calcium in our nutrition, coffee doesn't seem to increase our risk for bone loss, unless we are older adults. Also, although coffee does mildly increase blood pressure and heart rate in individuals sensitive to it, many recent studies have shown no connection between caffeine and heart disease. People already suffering from high blood pressure or other heart issues should talk to their physician before consuming caffeine, also because more research is needed to understand the role that caffeine plays in these conditions. However, there's no reason to alarm every healthy individual who's drinking a moderate amount of coffee.
In conclusion, I'm not advocating for a global increase of coffee consumption, because there are just too many unanswered question marks orbiting around this beverage. However, if consumed in moderation, it could provide us with some health benefits, especially at the beginning of our day. Unfortunately, we consume caffeine under many other forms, and it can all add up to a level that is not optimal to our health. More importantly, it's what often comes with coffee and caffeinated drinks that could harm us, and we should make sure we pay attention to it.
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