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Is Caffeine Good for You?

“Regular or decaf?”

You’ve probably heard this question every time you’ve ordered a cup of coffee. If it’s after a late dinner, you probably said, “Decaf.” On the other hand, people from truckers to college students often respond, “What’s the point of coffee without the caffeine?”

Today, we’ll dig into the world’s favorite psychoactive substance. We’ll talk about its benefits – and its drawbacks. But whether you avoid it or crave it, chances are caffeine has a few surprises for you.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Caffeine is well known for its stimulant effect. Here in the US, most of us get our morning shot of caffeine from coffee. The British and Chinese tend to prefer tea. Either way, a lot of people have a hard time getting started without their morning caffeine.

And for good reason. Study after study has confirmed that caffeine energizes and improves alertness. And it can also enhance your mood.1 Ever hear someone say not to talk to them before their morning coffee? It isn’t all in their head.

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But how does caffeine work? Science doesn’t have all the answers yet, but we do know that caffeine has an important effect on your nerves. You see, caffeine blocks a chemical called adenosine. Adenosine is like the highway patrol of your nervous system. It keeps the speed down to a reasonable level.

When caffeine blocks adenosine, your body releases more neurotransmitters and your nerves fire faster. That’s why a little caffeine makes you more alert – and a lot gives you the jitters.

But caffeine does much more than merely wake you up.

This Is Your Brain – and Body – on Caffeine

When researchers at Tufts University gave 200mg of caffeine to a group of grad students, the students performed better on tasks requiring attention and decision-making.2 And a university study in Wales got similar results with an even smaller dose.1

Caffeine can have positive effects on your body, too. Many studies have shown that caffeine improves performance during endurance exercise – such as long-distance running. Newer research shows that caffeine may help with resistance training, too. When athletes were given caffeine, researchers at the University of Alabama found they could perform more repetitions of a leg press exercise.3

Even if you’re not an athlete, caffeine offers you a nice benefit. It’s thermogenic. That is, caffeine boosts your metabolism. In fact, a Danish study found that caffeine boosted peoples’ metabolism by 6% – making it more effective than even green tea extract.4

But before you start guzzling coffee by the gallon, you should know a few other things about caffeine.

Caffeine Has Risks, Too

Caffeine can improve your alertness, mental function and mood. It can improve athletic performance. It may even help you lose weight. But caffeine has a down side.

As many dedicated coffee drinkers can tell you, coming down off caffeine is no fun. It’s linked to several problems – including brain fog and headaches.

Some studies have shown that heavy coffee drinkers have an increased risk of heart trouble.5 After reviewing 3,170 cases, New England researchers also found a link between coffee drinking and a higher risk of certain bone problems.6 And a Yale University study tied caffeine use by pregnant women to babies with low birth weights.7

But don’t worry. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your coffee (or tea).

The Magic Number

Several studies I read broke the degree of risk down by the amount of coffee (or caffeine) consumed. And there’s good news. You can still enjoy your morning coffee.

Most people can safely drink two cups of coffee a day. If you’re a tea drinker, four to five cups shouldn’t be a problem. (Tea contains much less caffeine than coffee.)

And you can still get all the benefits. Remember those Tufts University researchers I mentioned earlier? They discovered that caffeine’s positive effects begin to drop off at higher doses.2

So don’t skip the coffee. If you drink it in moderation, you can still enjoy caffeine’s many benefits. You’ll just be giving up the risks.

Best Life Herbals Wellness Team
Best Life Herbals


1 Smith A. Effects of caffeine in chewing gum on mood and attention. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2009 Apr;24(3):239-47.
2 Brunyé T, et al. Caffeine modulates attention network function. Brain Cogn 2009 Sep 4.
3 Green JM, et al. Effects of caffeine on repetitions to failure and ratings of perceived exertion during resistance training. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2007 Sep;2(3):250-9.
4 Belza A, et al. The effect of caffeine, green tea and tyrosine on thermogenesis and energy intake. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jan;63(1):57-64. Epub 2007 Sep 19.
5 Cornelis MC and El-Sohemy A. Coffee, caffeine, and coronary heart disease. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2007 Nov;10(6):745-51.
6 Kiel D, et al. Caffeine And The Risk Of Hip Fracture: The Framingham Study. American Journal of Epidemiology Vol. 132, No. 4: 675-684.
7 Terry R. Martin and Michael B. Bracken. The Association Between Low Birth Weight And Caffeine Consumption During Pregnancy. American Journal of Epidemiology Vol. 126, No. 5: 813-821

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