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Caffeine is one of the most widely used psychoactive stimulants in the world. You don’t need to be an expert to know about the energising and revigorating effects of caffeine on your brain.

Need a hint?

It is a naturally occurring compound, which is most commonly sourced from coffee beans. Caffeine is also present in tea, cocoa beans and a variety of other plants and is the secret behind the energy rush provided by energy drinks. The most common use of caffeine is for combating fatigue and drowsiness, though that is not all that this magical compound does for your body. You might be amazed to know that caffeine is good for your heart and is one of the most common ingredients in skin cosmetics.

Amazed yet?

Caffeine is known to increase longevity and slow down ageing when taken in moderation. Since cocoa beans also contain some amount of caffeine, you know what to say the next time someone asks you about your chocolate love.

If you are not a fan of tea and coffee and are still looking for that extra kick of energy for pulling an all-nighter at work, you can always pop in a caffeine pill. These are supplements prepared from either synthetic or natural caffeine and are as beneficial as an energy drink.

  1. Health benefits of caffeine
  2. Caffeine pills vs coffee
  3. How much caffeine is there in one cup of coffee and tea?
  4. Best time to have caffeine
  5. Caffeine overdose: How much is too much?
  6. Caffeine side effects

Caffeine is an excellent CNS (central nervous system) stimulator. It is also a natural antioxidant, which makes it the perfect supplement for improving health and life expectancy. Let us explore some of the scientifically proven health benefits of caffeine.

  1. Caffeine benefits for heart
  2. Caffeine boosts energy
  3. Caffeine benefits for brain
  4. Caffeine as an antioxidant
  5. Caffeine prevents diabetes
  6. Caffeine for skin and hair
  7. Caffeine as an anticancer agent

Caffeine benefits for heart

Moderate and consistent consumption of caffeine is associated with decreased risk of heart disease. According to a study on hypertensive individuals, caffeine intake produces a sudden increase in blood pressure, which lasts for about 3 hrs. However not much can be proved when it comes to the long term effects of caffeine on blood pressure or cardiovascular diseases in hypertensive patients.

Another study showed a non-linear association between coffee consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease(CVD). Moderate coffee intake was found to be inversely associated with CVD risk, with the lowest CVD risk at 3 to 5 cups per day. Despite the popular belief heavy coffee intake was not found to be associated with elevated CVD risk.

(Read more: Good foods for high blood pressure patients)

Caffeine boosts energy

How many times do you fix yourself a coffee when feeling slow or sleepy? And how quickly a cup of tea refreshes and wakes you up? The stimulating effects of both these hot brews are attributed to caffeine.

It has been scientifically proven that caffeine can easily pass the blood-brain barrier and stay in your system for about 5 hours. More like 5 hours of energy spike?

When present in ample amounts, it inhibits the binding of adenosine (a neurotransmitter that induces sleep) to brain cells, thus preventing drowsiness and helping you stay awake for longer.

Caffeine benefits for brain

Did you know your daily cup of coffee can make you smarter?

Caffeine intake has been shown to enhance memory and cognition at moderate intake levels. In a double-blind study, caffeine consumption, an hour before a match, was found to enhance performance in soccer players. It does this indirectly, through action on arousal, mood and concentration. It has further been suggested that caffeine enhances cognition by inhibiting the overactivation of adenosine in brain.

(Read more: How to increase brain power)

When you think this is it, caffeine is known to be a natural neuroprotective agent. It improves repair and rejuvenation of brain cells thus reducing the risk of age-related neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Preclinical studies indicate that caffeine may act as a promising treatment option in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, due to its restorative effects on both motor (slowness in movements, stiffness, tremors) and nonmotor (mood disorders, sleep problems, depression) functions. Furthermore, by inhibiting the accumulation of adenosine in the brain, it reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s.

So, what are you waiting for?

Caffeine as an antioxidant

Caffeine and its breakdown products exhibit powerful antioxidant properties. It helps in removing free radicals from the body thus improving body functioning. Free radicals are highly reactive, negatively charged unstable atoms produced as a result of various metabolic activities in the body. Free radicals deteriorate the normal functioning of body by damaging blood vessel cells, proteins, lipids and DNA. It also leads to premature ageing of the skin.

So, by scavenging these free radicals caffeine not only delays ageing signs but also increases life expectancy.

(Read more: Antioxidant-rich food)

Caffeine prevents diabetes

If you are a diabetic or a prediabetic and consume caffeine regularly, it might just be one of the foods helping control your blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that caffeine lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes and its progression in prediabetic patients when taken without sugar and cream. But you must remember it's only one of the many factors that influence diabetes risk.

According to an article published in the journal ‘Current Diabetes Reviews’, individuals who consumed 4 to 6 cups of coffee per day and more than 6 to 7 cups of coffee per day are at lower risk of type 2 diabetes as compared to those who consumed less than 2 cups per day. Though, this relation varies with the brewing process of coffee.

Caffeine for skin and hair

Caffeine is widely used in the cosmetic industry due to its skin penetrating ability and antioxidant potential. In fact, most of the cosmetic preparations available in the market contain about 3% of caffeine. Let us explore what makes this compound so special for your skin.

  1. Caffeine helps to protect cells from the harmful rays and slows down the process of photo-aging of the skin. This means, no dark spots or wrinkles.
  2. Moreover, caffeine contained in cosmetics increases blood circulation in skin, thus enhancing repairing, healing process and providing an inherent glow to your skin.
  3. Along with this, caffeine is an important ingredient in anti-cellulite products, it acts by accelerating the fat breakdown process.
  4. Caffeine also stimulates the growth of hair through inhibition of the 5-α-reductase activity thus treating androgenic alopecia. However, this might require a visit to a dermatologist first.

You can easily reap all of these benefits from caffeine by adding just a bit of coffee powder to your face masks or making a hair wash with coffee or green tea. The latter also provides you with the additional benefits of conditioned and well-nourished hair.

Caffeine as an anticancer agent

Research studies indicate that caffeine helps in reducing the risk of certain types of cancers Consuming only 2 cups of coffee is suggested to reduce the chances of developing liver cancer, endometrial cancer and prostate cancer. An inverse association has also been found between the risk of breast cancer and regular intake of caffeine.

This is because of the antioxidant properties of caffeine, which prevent DNA damage and help promote apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. However, more studies are still needed to assess the anticancer potential of this drug. 

There is no distinguishable structural or functional difference between natural and synthetic caffeine so caffeine pills would have almost the same benefits as coffee. However, Coffee has a plethora of antioxidants, minerals (calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, chromium, nitrogen) and many bioactive substances apart from caffeine, which definitely makes it more nutritive than caffeine pills

Both coffee and caffeine can cause acidity, sleeping disturbance and anxiety. Though coffee is much more delectable option than just popping a pill, caffeine pills can get more readily absorbed in your stomach and provide an instant rush of energy. Furthermore, taking pills helps you keep tabs on your total caffeine intake while the same cannot be said for coffee.

So, take your pick according to your need.

After reading so much about this drug, you may be curious to know how much is your total caffeine intake. Well, the amount of caffeine varies in different drinks but usually, it ranges as follows:  

  • A 250ml cup of coffee has 95-200 mg
  • A 355ml can of cola has 35-45 mg
  • A 250ml can of energy drink has 70-10mg
  • A 250ml cup of tea has 14-60mg

There is no recommended fixed timing for caffeine consumption. Most people tend to have it more in the morning hours to increase alertness and energy. Students tend to consume more caffeine during study hours. It usually depends on the individual routine. But it is best to avoid caffeine consumption close to bedtime to avoid sleep disturbances.  

What is the maximum limit of caffeine you can consume in a day?

Daily consumption of 200 -300mg of caffeine is considered safe. Consumption of 500-600 mg of caffeine per day is associated with health risks. Though, it varies according to individual tolerance, and environmental and genetic factors.

Symptoms of caffeine overdose

An overdose of caffeine may present in many forms. This includes:

Mild symptoms such as fever, increased breathing rate, high blood pressure, irritability, agitation, nausea and vomiting.

In severe cases, it may lead to delusional thoughts, hallucinations, and seizures.

Balancing caffeine consumption to prevent overdose

Caffeine can be beneficial for one type of ailment and adverse for another. For this, you need to find a balance. Listen to your body’s requirement and adjust accordingly.

If you think you’ve become too dependent on caffeine, try to cut it gradually, to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This can be done by replacing your daily coffee or tea with another low caffeine beverage. Green tea is an excellent option in such cases. It would also provide you with a number of health benefits and help in overall improvement of your health.

Sometimes feeling fatigued can simply be a sign of dehydration. Before you jump for caffeine, drink a glass or two of water.

  • Anxiety
    Caffeine is known to increase alertness. But when consumed in high doses it effects may lead to anxiety and nervousness.
  • Sleep deprivation
    Excess intake of caffeine makes you feel more alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain. But, it can also cause sleep disturbance when taken right before bedtime. 
  • Effect on digestion
    Caffeinated beverages lower the rate of absorption of certain vitamins and minerals in intestines, most commonly iron and zinc. So, it is advisable that you avoid consuming caffeine for half an hour after meals. It may also affect the absorption of calcium if consumed in large quantities each day. Some studies suggest that caffeine may worsen the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD
  • Addiction
    Consistent consumption of caffeine may lead to it’s psychological and physiological dependence. Caffeine doesn't threaten your physical, social or economic health the way addictive drugs do but it's always better not to develop a dependency on it.
  • Frequent urination
    Caffeine is a natural diuretic. It increases blood flow to kidneys, leading to frequent urination.
  • Dehydration
    Frequent urination after intake of caffeine and loss of appetite may lead to dehydration
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