Caffeine is pervasive in our society these days and every few months we hear about how a study has shown that it is bad for us or good for us. Caffeine, which comes from the leaves, seeds, and fruits of about 63 different plants, is well known as a stimulant. Caffeine does help us wake up and feel more alert and it has been shown to increase attention spans. This is a beneficial effect for people who are driving long distances and for people who are doing tedious work. Calling this a health benefit may be stretching it, though staying awake while we are driving a car definitely contributes to our well-being! Caffeine also contains antioxidants, which have been shown to have cancer prevention qualities. The negative effects of caffeine are largely dependent on how much we consume. When consumed in small quantities caffeine can increase our heart rate, cause us to urinate more (which can cause dehydration) and prompt our digestive system to produce more acid. In larger amounts, caffeine can cause us to have headaches, feel restless and nervous, be unable to sleep, and even in very large quantities to have hallucinations. When larger amounts of caffeine (over 600 mg per day) are ingested over long periods of time, they can cause sleep problems, depression, and digestion issues.
Researchers say that having up to 3 eight-ounce cups of coffee a day or 250 mg of caffeine is considered (quote) “average or moderate”. 10 cups of coffee a day is considered excessive. Also, remember that the amount of caffeine per cup can vary greatly depending on the type of beans that are used and the strength of the brew. Most sodas with caffeine, unless they are specially enhanced, have about 35 mg of caffeine per 8 ounces. As we can see, caffeine can have both positive and negative effects on our health and well-being. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that if we drink our coffee or sodas in moderation, we don’t have to worry too much.