Caffeine Controversy: Clear As Mud
Java heads rejoice! Well, sort of. A great deal of controversy surrounds the use of one the world’s most commonly used drugs – caffeine. For years, so-called experts have been warning us about the negative effects of caffeine and portraying caffeine as an “evil” drug. Scientists have been looking for possible connections between caffeine use and various health conditions. Even with all the research, controversy still remains about caffeine use and health. So what do we know about caffeine?
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that does not accumulate in the blood stream and is eliminated from the body within hours following consumption. Many people report an increase in alertness when consuming caffeinated beverages with the greatest affect experienced by individuals who do not regularly use such beverages. Because sensitivity to caffeine varies among people, one’s individual sensitivity appears to determine the affect caffeine will have on their level of alertness, possible tremors, and sleep quality.
A review of the research would indicate that the people who have touted caffeine as a villainous substance to your health may not have an “alert” leg to stand on when making such claims – in terms of what research has found. A published study following more than 16,000 individuals is one of several studies that found no relationship between coffee consumption and cancer risk. The National Institutes of Health has concluded that moderate caffeine use does not affect the risk of osteoporosis as long as the person is getting calcium in their diet. And a Harvard study confirms earlier research that found caffeine intake does not appreciably increase the risk of coronary heart disease or cause chronic hypertension.
Before you order your 3rd cup of coffee today, please read on. While the fore mentioned studies found no relationship between coffee consumption and the risk of disease, it should be pointed out that most of the research was conducted in observational studies. In this type of study, people’s coffee drinking habits are determined through dietary questionnaires. Then the subjects are tracked to see if they develop certain diseases. The problem with this type of research is that the study does not take into account other lifestyle factors that may influence (either positively or negatively) the risk of disease. These types of studies are best at giving us a preliminary look at disease and potential risk factors.
So are you completely confused now? Don’t be – just make an informed decision regarding your caffeine use. The best evidence available would suggest that moderate use of coffee and other caffeinated beverages will be safe for most individuals. If you have a particular condition that concerns you in terms of caffeine use, please consult your physician. In the meantime, find some assurance in knowing that the American Medical Association has stated that “moderate tea or coffee drinkers probably have no concern for their health relative to their caffeine consumption provided other lifestyle habits (diet, alcohol consumption) are moderate as well.”
As is true for so many health-related issues, moderation is the key.