Caffeine: Any Health Risks?

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What chemical is in coffee?

The main ingredient in coffee is caffeine. This is a substance that is available and extracted from certain plants (as in coffee beans) or produced synthetically for use as an additive in some food preparations. Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant, a "waker-upper." It is also a diuretic, inducing the coffee drinker to produce urine.

Where does caffeine come from?

Caffeine is found in the fruits, seeds and leaves of more than 60 plants, like in coffee, kola nuts, cocoa beans, and tea leaves. Millions and millions of people around the world ingest caffeine from the coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate, and many carbonated colas that we drink. Caffeine can also be synthetically produced..

What countries produce most of the coffee we drink?

In the Pacific: Sumatra, Java, New Guinea, and Sulawesi. In Africa and Arabia: Ethiopia, Kenya and Arabian Mocha Sanani. In the Americas: Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama and Guatamela.

Does caffeine have any medical value?

Yes, caffeine is frequently added to many popular drugs people take, such as pain medications, cold medications and appetite suppressants for dieters. Caffeine potentiates the action of pain relievers, making them more effective.

In what conditions is caffeine used as a medication?

Caffeine is commonly used for the treatment of migraine headaches and in "relieving" drowsiness and fatigue for a short time. However, if a person who is very tired keeps on drinking coffee, pretty soon the side effects of caffeine will lead to more fatigue, nervousness and excitement, and later malaise.

What is "Caffeine Sensitivity"?

This refers to the amount of caffeine, a threshold, that will produce the negative side effects of caffeine in a drinker of coffee, colas, tea, etc. This varies from person to person, according to individual tolerance.

Does Caffeine accumulate in the bloodstream?

After ingestion, caffeine is rapidly absorbed from the gatrointestinal system and distributed in the body tissues, and passes into the central nervous system (the brain, etc). It does not accumulate in the blood stream and is not stored in the body. It is excreted in the urine hours after it is ingested.

Does caffeine reduce the effects of alcohol?

It is a myth. No, it does not. However, many still think that a cup of coffee will "sober up" an intoxicated individual. The caffeine in coffee stimulates the brain and tends to "wake up" the person, but caffeine does not really reduce the effects of alcohol.

Does caffeine cause dangerous heart irregularity?

Yes, even in persons who are "otherwise healthy." In patients with coronary artery heart disease, with or without angina (chest pains), and/or hypertension (high blood pressure), drinking coffee or cola drinks, or drinking or eating chocolates, can precipitate a heart irregularity called PVCs (Premature Ventricular Contractions) or even palpitation (rapid heart pounding). This is why physicians advise these persons to drink decaffeinated coffee and non-cola drinks ( like Sprite, 7-Up, etc), or better yet, fruit juices. For diabetics, the fruits juices and non-diet drinks will have to be added into the computation of their total daily calorie intake.

Is caffeine bad for the fetus?

Pregnant women are advised against drinking beverages with caffeine since this cause central nervous system stimulation effects in the baby in the womb and also tends to affect the birth weight of the baby. In some cases birth defects have been reported. There are many medications which should not be taken during pregnancy and during breast-feeding as they adversely affect the health of the baby. They include, among many others, nicotine (tobacco), alcohol, insulin, caffeine, cocaine, theophylline (asthma drug), and a long list of prescription drugs. All pregnant women are well-advised to have regular prenatal checkups.

Is caffeine a diet requirement?

No, there is no human requirement for caffeine (as in vitamin and mineral requirements in our daily diet). There is no such thing as "hypo-coffeenemia." Ingesting three 8-ounce cups of coffee (which contains a total of 250 milligrams of caffeine) per day is considered average or moderate caffeine intake. Beyond this borders on the excessive.

What are the bad effect of caffeine in children?

The negative effects of caffeine on children are: coffee or cola drinks affect their nutrition since caffeine reduces the appetite by its central nervous system effects and at the same time these beverages "replace" the nutrient dense foods such as fruit juices and milk. Since coffee and cola drinks there is no essential nutritional value, these may be omitted from their diet.

Is coffee really good for hyperactive children?

While some lay people thought coffee was good for "hyperactive" children (medically known as ADD: Attention Deficit Disorder, With or Without Hyperactivity), Pediatricians do not recommend this, since there is no scientific basis for this belief. Besides, there are now a number of safe and effective drugs for ADD.

Does caffeine cause fibrocystic breast disease?

The final verdict is not in yet, but caffeine is a suspect in this female breast condition. Various studies are underway on this subject and on the effects of caffeine in cardiovascular diseases, birth defects, peptic ulcer, hypertension, reproductive function and on the behavior of children whose parents regularly ingest coffee and or cola drinks.

©2003Raoul R. Diez, M.A.O.D.