Contrary to popular belief, a moderate amount of caffeine can actually be beneficial for healthy adults. In fact, most health risks associated with caffeine are actually based on over-consumption.
Health Canada recommends that Canadian adults have a daily intake of no more than 400 mg, which is equal to approximately four, eight-ounce cups of coffee per day.
Caffeine is a natural ingredient found in many foods and drinks. According to Health Canada, Canadians receive, on average, 60% of their caffeine from coffee, 30% from tea, and the remaining 10% from various other food and drinks like cola beverages, chocolate, and medicines.
How It Works
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that activates pleasure centers in parts of the brain. Caffeine increases dopamine levels by slowing down the rate of dopamine reabsorption. This is why your body might like caffeine, especially if you’re running low on sleep and finding it difficult to focus. Caffeine blocks adenosine reception so you feel alert and injects adrenaline into your system which gives you a boost. Probably the most enticing effect of all; it manipulates dopamine production to make you feel good.
While many of us start our day with a hot cup of Joe for the many feel-good reasons previously mentioned, it’s not conclusive as to why or how caffeine may improve our health. The jury is still out. However, many studies claim a variety of benefits including:
Top 5 Benefits of Caffeine
- Everyone’s favourite benefit of caffeine is, of course, the immediate jolt of energy it provides. Caffeine provides alertness and helps us feel more awake even if we haven’t had enough sleep. It improves concentration and memory function.
- Having moderate amounts of caffeine on a regular basis has been linked to reducing the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, later in life.
- Drinking caffeinated coffee regularly has also been shown to reduce risks of cancer. Studies have consistently demonstrated that coffee-drinkers have a lower risk for a lot of cancers, including liver, breast and prostate cancer. While researchers are still trying to determine why this is, it’s believed that the same jolt of energy that is provided to the mind is also provided to the body which could help cells from becoming cancerous.
- There are also many studies that link caffeinated coffee with a much lower risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes in younger and middle aged women.
- Moderate caffeine consumption and reduced risk of depression have also been linked. Caffeine affects mood transmitters like dopamine and serotonin in the brain which can help to prevent depression. Caffeine is an excellent way to boost both mood and energy levels in the short term.
Risks of Over-Consumption of Caffeine
Caffeine is an addictive substance that the body can build a tolerance against over time. It may begin to take more and more caffeine to achieve the same energy boost. This can become a vicious cycle complete with sleep deprivation and withdrawal effects such as headaches and fatigue. These effects can cause us to want even more caffeine. Caffeine overkill can cause anxiety and jitters, which negate the energy boost as well as depression prevention. It is important to note that people diagnosed with depression should not try to self-medicate with caffeine.
Risks of Caffeine Consumption in Children
The popularity and increased use of caffeinated beverages among youth is a growing concern for physicians. We want all Nova Scotians to understand the dangers of consuming energy drinks and other beverages that contain large amounts of caffeine.
Health Canada reports that too much caffeine can result in nausea and vomiting and/or heart irregularities and anxiety. A small amount of caffeine could also cause sleeping problems, headaches, irritability and nervousness.
Highly caffeinated beverages, such as energy drinks, have been reported in association with serious adverse effects, especially in children, adolescents, and young adults with seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, or mood and behavior disorder or those who take certain medications.
Doctors Nova Scotia believes that the consumption of energy drinks should be restricted to adults aged 19 and older and is lobbying provincial government to make this the law.
So, How Much is Too Much?
A healthy adult can consume 400 mg of caffeine per day with little adverse effects and even some positive effects.
Health Canada recommends the maximum daily caffeine intake for children under 12 should not exceed 2.5 mg/kg of body weight. Based on average body weights of children, this means a maximum of:
- 45 mg for children aged four to six, about one 355 ml can of cola
- 62.5 mg for children aged seven to nine, about one and a half 355 ml cans of cola
- 85 mg for children aged 10 to 12, nearly two 355 ml cans of cola
Teens should follow the precautionary recommendations of 2.5 mg/kg body weight. Older and heavier adolescents may be able to consume up to the adult limit: 400 mg/day.
The key to obtaining the health benefits of caffeine is moderation. Almost all of the benefits of caffeine are reversed when too much is consumed. You should know your limits and how much caffeine you can consume based on your own health circumstances, body weight and dietary needs. Discuss your caffeine consumption with your doctor to be sure you’re reaping the benefits and not the risks of caffeine.
Considering the various sources of caffeine, how much are you actually consuming every day?