Caffeine Myths and Facts
Is Caffeine Healthy or Not?
Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance that has been enjoyed by people for thousands of years.
It is generally regarded as the most widely consumed food/drug in the world. Caffeine enhances certain aspects of both physical and mental performance, as well as alertness.
People who use caffeine regularly and responsibly to make the most of their day, often face conflicting and confusing statements regarding the effects of caffeine on a person’s health.
Luckily, caffeine is one of the most comprehensively studied substances with centuries of safe consumption when taken in moderate doses.
As a result, there is a vast amount of scientific data that can provide answers to the many questions that exist surrounding the use of caffeine.
Myth: Caffeine is not safe.
Because caffeine is so widely used, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) carefully reviewed and deemed it as safe and effective. In 1958, caffeine was placed on the Food and Drug Administration’s list as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).
A comprehensive review of caffeine safety was recently published and concluded that moderate daily caffeine intake at doses up to 400 mg per/day was not associated with adverse effects such as general toxicity, cardiovascular effects, effects on bone status and calcium balance (with consumption of adequate calcium), changes in adult behavior, increased incidence of cancer and effects on male fertility. Src.
Another article that reviewed the effects of caffeine on human behavior also concluded that caffeine is unlikely to cause adverse events when taken in moderation. Src.
Experts agree that moderation and common sense are the keys to safe consumption of caffeine.
What is considered a “normal” amount of caffeine depends on an individual’s sensitivity and can be affected by frequency and amount of intake, body weight, age, and a person’s overall health.
Myth Busted? Yes, the research would tell us that caffeine is safe in moderation.
Myth: Caffeine is an addictive drug.
Caffeine is a pharmacologically active substance; it can work as a mild stimulant, and therefore is considered a drug. Few caffeine users report loss of control of caffeine intake or significant difficulty in reducing or stopping caffeine if desired. Thus, caffeine is mildly addictive, but it is not on the same level as other addictive stimulants.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse doesn’t include caffeine on its Commonly Abused Drugs List.
However, people can have some dependency and level of addiction to caffeine. Many feel they need it to function normally and can have withdrawal symptoms if they miss their daily dose. We put together a useful Caffeine Addiction Diagnosis Tool to help determine a person’s level of dependency.
It is also important to note that caffeine overdose and withdrawal is now included in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Myth Busted? This myth would be partially true. Caffeine has some addictive properties, but not all that would allow it to fully be considered a dangerous addictive substance.
Myth: Caffeine causes heart problems
A comprehensive review of caffeine safety was recently done and published, which concluded that moderate daily caffeine intake at a dose level up to 400 mg per/day was not associated with cardiovascular effects. Src.
Furthermore, the Framingham Heart Study examined potential links between caffeine intake and cardiovascular disease. This study showed that there is no significant relationship between caffeine consumption and development of stroke or cardiovascular disease. Thus, it was concluded that moderate caffeine consumption is not a factor in the development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
A Harvard University study confirmed this report, concluding that caffeine intake does not “appreciably increase the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.” In fact, the Framingham study also concluded that caffeinated coffee drinkers had a 43% less risk of cardiac death. Src.
However, caffeine can be dangerous for those with underlying heart conditions. This is especially dangerous for minors because they may not yet have been diagnosed. The severe reactions to caffeine and even deaths are usually attributed to those with underlying heart problems.
Myth Busted? Yes, There is yet no evidence linking caffeine to causing heart disease or heart disorders.
Myth: Caffeine Causes Cancer
Many studies have looked at the relationship between caffeine intake and increased risk of certain cancers, but no associations have been discovered or supported by this research. Src.
Other studies have shown that caffeine when consumed via caffeinated coffee even has a cancer preventative effect. This probably is the result of the antioxidants contained in the coffee beans, but the same correlations were not observed among decaffeinated coffee drinkers.
Myth Busted? Yes, there is no research that supports this belief.
All in Moderation
Based on what science in currently telling us, caffeine consumed in moderation (<400mg/day) will most likely produce no ill effects in healthy adults.
However, excessive caffeine consumption can lead to adrenal fatigue and severe withdrawal symptoms, so some caution should be taken if daily amounts are becoming excessive. Overdose symptoms range from mild to dangerous, and caffeine is lethal at a high enough dosage.
Much of the research surrounding caffeine has been performed on adults or lab rats, so the risk to children isn’t fully understood.
It isn’t clear how caffeine can potentially affect an individual while they are still growing. This is important since highly caffeinated energy drinks are often consumed by this age group.
Recently the American Medical Association endorsed a ban that would restrict the advertisement of energy drinks to minors.