Thursday, February 5, 2009

Addicted to Caffeine? Maybe That's a Good Thing...

Caffeine is the world's #1 drug of choice: it promotes wakefulness, mental acuity, athletic performance and is also commonly used as a fat burner to improve body composition. It's safe to say that most North Americans rely on caffeine to get through their days, most commonly in the form of coffee, tea and energy drinks such as Red Bull.

As you can see, the benefits of coffee are many, and new discoveries just keep percolating in. In a recent review study, researchers found a link between drinking caffeine and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. The more coffee that was consumed by participants, the greater the risk reduction. Similarly, a study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that middle-aged Finnish adults who regularly drank several cups of coffee per day had a lower risk of developing dementia later in life. The adults drank 3 to 5 cups of Joe per day and were found to be 2/3 less likely to develop dementia than their non-coffee drinking counterparts.

Well, all of this sounds great, right? But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? There is much debate as to whether or not caffeine is addictive, but in being a drug, most experts agree that it certainly can become addictive. It all depends on your age, weight, metabolic rate and personal sensitivity to caffeine, but as little as 2.5 cups of coffee per day might push you over the edge. If caffeine is withdrawn for as little as 24 hours, symptoms such as headaches, irritability and fatigue start to manifest. Sound familiar?

It is recommended that adults limit their daily caffeine intake to 250mg per day, which is about the equivalent of 2 regular cups of coffee, to be on the safe side. With very high levels of caffeine consumption, the risk of potentially serious side effects such as cardiac and bone loss effects increase. This, in addition to caffeine's diuretic effects (water loss) make too much caffeine a potentially dangerous thing.

Oh, and speaking of dangerous, try keeping your coffee or tea as simple as possible. On their own, coffee and tea pretty much have zero calories, but once you start adding sugar, cream and syrups, you can rack up quite the hefty calorie content in your beverage of choice. Now, that's definitely not conducive to weight loss!

Be smart and cautious about your caffeine consumption. Nobody is suggesting that a caffeine free-for-all will cure all that ails you, but caffeine can certainly be a useful tool in achieving weight loss, productivity and improving overall health.