Caffeine: The Socially Accepted Killer
Am I Missing Something?
Getting through your day seems so much easier with your caffeine fix added. Drinking a cup of coffee or black tea is synonymous with the work place. But could that caffeine fix be doing more harm to your body than you realize?
It seems like everyday the news is reporting caffeine being OK, then its not, then it is again. For the everyday person, it really seems impossible to know the true answer. Although there has never been a perfectly clear and straightforward answer to this question, new research is showing that there maybe long term effects that haven’t been looked into enough.
What is That Cup of Joe Doing to Your Body?
Most medical professionals along with athletes and fitness trainers will tell you that getting energy from an addictive substance is not good on your body. Long term research by Rogers, Heatherly, & Mullings in 2006 followed 6000 adults and saw “higher levels of depressed mood, anxiety and stress.” In a society where one addiction (caffeine) can simply be cured by another drug, anti-depressants, many wouldn’t attribute their blues to the cup of coffee in their hands.
Research by Rogers found the following:
“…Evidence suggests that little or no acute benefit is gained from regular caffeine consumption because the withdrawal of caffeine, for example overnight, lowers mood and alertness and performance degrades, and while consumption of more caffeine reverses these effects, it does not boost functioning to above normal levels. Caffeine increases anxiety, especially in susceptible individuals (Rogers, 2007).”
“(Another) study that examined the relationship between coffee and the risk of heart attack incorporated a genetic polymorphism associated with a slower rate of caffeine metabolism and provides strong evidence that caffeine also affects risk of coronary heart disease (Cornelis & El-Sohemy, 2007). According to this journal article, diterpenes present in unfiltered coffee and caffeine appears to increase the risk of coronary heart disease. A diet high in caffeine increases calcium excretion in the urine, a contributor to osteoporosis (Wrotny, 2005). Recent studies have shown that a diet high in caffeine, low in antioxidants and high in red meat may contribute to an increased risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis (Oliver & Silman, 2006).”
Finally, the over all mental changes that occur when your body is addicted to a chemical substance can have deadly effects. With caffeine being so prominent in our society, an overdose death from caffeine that 30 years ago seemed ridiculous, is actually becoming possibilities as deaths begin to show up. With the chemical changes in the brain, depression and stress, especially in the over-stressed student population, has begun to have deadly consequences. Additionally, drivers and machine operators who are already sleep deprived may have hallucinations or slowed response times from caffeine withdrawal or hyper-caffeination causing deadly crashes each day.
I’m Stressed… Could It Be My Drink?
Caffeine has also been found to aggravate stress. Because of the increase in the epinephrine, coritsol, and norepinephrine (common stress hormones,) people who work in an already stressful job can actually be adding to their stressed mental status by simply sipping on their favorite caffeine laced drink.
For persons who engage in a stressful job(s), which let’s be honest is most of us, adding caffeine seems like a reasonable way to get through the day mostly intact. But long term high amounts of stress hormones can have many long term, detrimental effects on our overall health and well-being.
Weight Gain, From Caffeine?
You may recognize coritsol as a hormone that causes weight gain. When a person has a high coritsol level, their chances of gaining abdominal weight skyrocket. Increases in body weight can lead to diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and release of higher amounts of stress hormones.
Everyone is fairly familiar with the fact that obesity leads down a road none of us want to venture. Caffeine has begun sneaking its way into so many products that many people do not have a firm grasp on how much they are taking in from the various sources. From headache medications to your after-work cocktail, you may have high intake levels than you know.
What Alternatives Do I Have?
While anyone can tell you “nothing beats a good nights sleep and relaxation,” the reality is that most Americans are tired. Outside of highly caffeinated energy drinks, strong cups of coffee, and black tea, there are options to help get your body out of the sleepy funk.
First and most importantly is the determine if you are heavily dependent or addicted to caffeine. If this is the case, slowly lowering your intake while utilizing these alternatives is critical. If your a casual consumer looking to remove caffeine, simply adding these alternatives will boost your energy and mood and make caffeine obsolete.
It may sound terribly cliche, but getting up doing activity for at least an hour a day releases endorphins (“feel good hormones”) along with losing weight which fights coritsol. Just making time to take a walk, go biking, or playing a sport with friends can be the best energy booster you use.
Also terribly cliche, but your diet is the fuel for your body. Making smart, energy packed meals fuels your body naturally while keeping your weight and sugar levels in check throughout the day.
Check Your Vitamin Levels:
Similar to our response to food, our bodies respond to the natural chemical reactions occurring in our bodies too. Studies have found that most adults are on average deficient in at least 2 essential vitamins or minerals. Deficiencies of such vitamins as B-12, D, Coenzyme Q10, or the thyroid transmitter L-Lysine can cause the body to not function as it should. Vitamins B-12 and D are essential for energy production and overall brain function, while Coenzyme Q10 and L-Lysine are needed to metabolize your food into energy, both stored in the cells and used.
Assuring that you are taking in these energy vitamins and minerals through both natural sources, like diet, or through supplements, with give an extra dose of feel good and go-get-em’ energy overall.
Research has been conducted using a variety of alternative means to keep the body alert and focused. Researchers tested 21 female and male college students using smell/fragrance with surprising results. The participants were told to smell a fragrance ring while “cramming” for a mid-term test, then during the test itself.
“The findings showed that the special formulation most effected the participant’s performance when recall of exact dates and associated names was required. Remembering lists of items showed moderate improvement. Recalling contextual facts alone showed modest improvement.
An increased sense of wakefulness was reported as was a feeling of improved concentration. A moderate decrease in overall frustration was also noted. Subjects reported themselves feeling more positive about their overall mental abilities and having an increased motivation to perform even under the vigilance of the testing environment.
The study found the participants more able to ignore “disturbances” created during the testing period under the special odorant condition. Participants also reported feeling more satisfied with their results during the special odorant condition and even happier overall afterward.”
Since smell is directly tied to memory, (i.e.- what grandma’s house smells like, your significant others perfume,) this research into attentiveness and focus isn’t as far fetched as it may seem.
Other research has led to the development of over the counter alertness aids that are naturally derived and work on many of the same principles of smell and naturally occurring chemical reactions. Alert Drops has patented a spray that uses naturally derived elements to instantly make you feel more awake and alert to your surrounding situations.
Whatever path you choose to wake you up in the morning and keep you going through the day, always remember to think about the long term effects the use of this product maybe having on your body. Although caffeine is a natural chemical byproduct of coffee beans, long term use of the substance can cause addiction. Just remember, just because its legal and acceptable, doesn’t mean its not killing you.
SportsBoost- Caffeine Article
Cornelis, M. C., & El-Sohemy, A. (2007, February). Coffee, caffeine, and coronary heart disease. Curr Opin Lipidol, 18(1), 13-9.
Crowe, M. J., Leicht, A. S., & Spinks, W. L. (2006). Physiological and cognitive responses to caffeine during repeated, high-intensity exercise. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 16, 528-544.
David, M. (2005). The slowdown diet: Eating for pleasure, energy, and weight loss (1st ed.). : Healing Arts Press.
Garrett, B. E., & Griffiths, R. R. (1997). The role of dopamine in the behavioral effects of caffeine in animals and humans. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav., 57, pp. 553-541.
Ogawa, N., & Ueki, H. (2007). Clinical importance of caffeine dependence and abuse. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 61, 263-268.
Oliver, J. E., & Silman, A. J. (2006, May). Risk factors for the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatoid Arthritis, 35(3), pp. 169-174.
Popkin, B. M., Armstrong, L. E., Bray, G. M., Caballero, B., Frei, B., & Willett, W. C. (2006, March). . A new proposed guidance system for beverage consumption in the United States, 83(3), pp. 529-542.
Rogers, P. J. (2007). Caffeine, mood and mental performance in everyday life. British Nutrition Foundation, Nutrition bulletin 32(32 (suppl 1)), 84-89.
Rogers, P. J., Heatherly, S. V., & Mullings, E. L. (2006). Licit drug use and depression, anxiety, and stress. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 20((suppl.) A27), .
Stewart, R. (1999). Hypertension and cognitive decline. British Journal of Psychiatry, 174, pp. 286-7.
Wrotny, C. (2005). Osteoporosis: What women want to know. MEDSURG Nursing, 14(6), pp. 405-415.