Everyone would always appreciate a cup of coffee every morning after discovering the benefits it could give you as you are starting your day. These benefits, however, are the effect of caffeine and some other substance in coffee, with caffeine taking the largest space available. And coffee is also the largest natural source of caffeine in the world
Americans, kiwis, and Aussies all love a cup of coffee now and then that it almost seems like there’s a coffee culture out there. This is why we’d be looking into coffee, caffeine, and the impact they could have on our heart and its overall health.
Let’s get in and get started with the questions
What is Caffeine?
Forget the ingredients you’ve read on your energy drink cans, instant coffee, and tea packages. Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical substance found in some of our food materials. And it is also part of a group of chemical compounds known as methylxanthines.
Caffeine is found naturally in over 60 plants worldwide like in the popular coffee bean, some green tea leaves, and in berries of the guarana plant.
The most amazing thing is that this deposit of caffeine in plants is as beneficial to us humans as it is for plants as well. In the plants they are naturally found, they protect the plants from being damaged by insects. In our bodies, it acts as a psychoactive substance by stimulating our central nervous system which contains the brain and spinal cord.
Common Sources of Caffeine
Caffeine is mostly found naturally, but it has been synthesized into some of the drinks we take.
Apart from coffee where caffeine comes naturally, it is also found naturally in our tea — green and black — as well as in our chocolate.
Caffeine has also been added to other food and drinks which makes them sources of caffeine too. Examples of these are soft drinks and energy drinks.
Tea and coffee are the most consumed beverage in the world which makes them the largest source of caffeine consumption: coffee takes the top spot though because it has the highest amount of caffeine and it is also consumed more than tea.
Effects of Coffee on Your Body and Heart Health
Above we mentioned that Caffeine is like a psychoactive substance because it stimulates the
Central Nervous System and that’s where we’d explain the first benefit of caffeine.
Because caffeine stimulates the brain when consumed it helps us feel less tired and more alert even when we have been tired and losing focus. Stimulating the brain increases the activities in it which would, in turn, increase alertness and concentration levels.
This is the main reason why most people love coffee in the morning. It kind of puts you in a “ready for the day” mood. It is also why you sometimes find it in coffee machines in offices. But like every other substance in the world food or drinks, there would always be side effects and allergic reactions, and sensitivities after consuming caffeine.
Different individuals have a different reactions to various substances and it is not so different with caffeine. We have people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others.
See the common side effects of caffeine here:
- Sleeping problems
- Jitters and;
- Increase in heart rate
Different research studies have been carried out to determine some other benefits of caffeine, proving that the established benefits are true and finding out ways to consume caffeine healthily. Some of this research has revealed that moderate consumption of caffeine is the best way to reap its benefit while some haven’t found a connection between heart diseases and Caffeine consumption.
There has been very little and close to no conclusion about how or if caffeine has an impact on the health of your heart because most time the consumption sources of caffeine have different other substances. In energy drinks, there are dye, sugar, and other additives like preservatives. Coffee also has some other substances like oils and antioxidants, especially which could have positive effects on the heart.
Because of these other substances that are in coffee, it is difficult for researchers to identify exactly what the effect of a particular component in the coffee bean is.
Does Caffeine Have An Effect On Your Blood Pressure?
The good news about the effect of caffeine on the body is that both negative and positive effects are temporary; they are not prolonged such that they would lead to chronic illnesses.
It is also temporary for blood pressure which is slightly spiked in some individuals. Not every coffee taker would experience this because we all react to caffeine differently. And when blood pressure increases in a person after consuming coffee, as the effects of caffeine reduce, the blood pressure also decreases. This is the same for every other effect, both positive and negative. So it means you can always reverse these effects by doing activities that would metabolize coffee and caffeine quickly.
The prolonged effects of these continuous blood pressure are yet to be determined as research is still going on around the topic
When Does Caffeine Become Too Much?
Caffeine like we have addressed acts like a psychoactive substance capable of stimulating the brain, so, overconsumption could lead to some undesirable conditions in humans beings. So it must be regulated.
There are no guides or rules about consuming caffeine only a recommendation.
It has been recommended that adults who do not have caffeine sensitivity shouldn’t consume more than 400 mg of caffeine in a day. 400 mg would fit into 4 regular-sized coffee cups. You also have to note that coffee cups are very different in different places. So you have to be careful his much coffee you take or you risk consuming too much caffeine.
People with caffeine sensitivity, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and other people with underlying diseases like diabetes are asked not to exceed a recommended 200 mg of caffeine.
Children shouldn’t consume more than 3 mg while toddlers and newborns shouldn’t be given coffee or any drink with caffeine in it.
Although there are no strict guidelines to follow concerning caffeine consumption, you should make sure your total caffeine intake shouldn’t exceed the recommended amount because there’s caffeine in some other food and drinks we take.
Like I mentioned above, The amount of caffeine in coffee is dependent on the cup used to serve. The way it is brewed and type also plays an important role in how much caffeine you would find in the cup. Brewed coffee would normally have between 95 mg to 200 mg of caffeine based on the type of brew.
Other things you should note is that
- Coffee has more caffeine than tea.
- Brewed coffee has caffeine content between 95 to 200 mg per cup
- Instant coffee could hold between 27 to 123 mg of caffeine per cup
- Black tea retains between 40 to 120 mg of caffeine per cup
- Green tea retains between 25 to 29 mg per cup.
For both coffee and tea, the amount of caffeine depends on the brew. For tea, it depends on the amount of water used in brewing and the time taken in brewing the tea. The quality of the tea also matters.
For coffee it is similar because there are different brewing techniques, some favor having a thick brew which would mean more caffeine, and some a more diluted brew which means less caffeine. Brewing is an art to be mastered. The popular way of brewing coffee is percolation. You can read about how to percolate coffee here (hyperlink this with how to percolate coffee article)
Your brew would determine how much caffeine is retained in your coffee.
Pure Caffeine and Caffeinated Products
There are other alternatives to coffee, tea, and energy drinks as sources of caffeine. We have caffeine pills and there have been debates you can read on Caffeine pills vs Coffee (please hyperlink with the article of the same title) where both were analyzed to help you figure which is the best fit.
We also have caffeine powder which is also called pure caffeine by different people. You can find coffee powder in some health food stores and some products being sold online. The difference between this and coffee is that, although with coffee and energy drinks you can’t know how much caffeine you’re consuming, these pure caffeine products have tons of caffeine in their packs that it is impossible to measure the amount you want, and if you eventually take the product, you won’t know how much caffeine you have consumed.
These products can come in liquid form and the instruction is to take them with a teaspoon because they are highly caffeinated, a teaspoon can contain the same amount of caffeine as 20 cups of coffee at least and 50 cups at most.
That means if a cup of coffee has just 90 mg of caffeine then do the math for 20 cups. That’s a staggering amount of caffeine your body has to deal with.
There is something called Green Tea Extracts (GTE) which is also similar to pure caffeine and they’re found in some health food products and supplements with claims of being good for the body, but it was later revealed that it could damage the liver and be lethal to the body.
Seeing the effects of pure caffeine, the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) in 2019 made a change in their regulations prohibiting the retail of these highly concentrated caffeine products and pure caffeine at some specific caffeine levels
- If the food is solid or semi-solid, it shouldn’t have up to 5% caffeine and;
- If it is a liquid food substance, it should have less than 1% caffeine.
If the concentration exceeds these regulations, it should not be retailed.
How to Moderate Your Caffeine Consumption
The different food and drinks we take unconsciously have a little amount of caffeine that we don’t know about, I’m sure a lot of people don’t even know chocolate has caffeine. Now, imagine taking two cups of coffee in the morning, assuming it’s the regular cup, you have close to 180 mg in the morning and if you take the same amount, say in the afternoon, you’ve exceeded the recommended 400 mg per day. What if you decide to snack up with a few chocolate bars and maybe a soft drink, then you have gone way above what is recommended and put yourself at risk of getting some unexpected negative effects of caffeine. So, it is good to moderate the amount of caffeine you take per day, and here’s how you can do it.
- Switch from the normal type of brewed coffee to decaffeinated coffee.
- Switch from normal black tea to decaffeinated black tea as well.
- Choose from the various natural caffeine-free herbal tea
- Start frowning at soft drinks. Switch to clean water and spice with cucumber or mint flavor.
Heart Foundation and its Recommendations
The body naturally resets itself when due and raises its energy levels when needed such that the amount of caffeine needed is moderate. Exercising and resting adequately sets the body on the right path to getting the best from it. Eat well, exercise, and rest.
Remember, the recommended amount of caffeine is 400 mg and because it is 400 mg doesn’t mean you should take 400 mg of caffeine every day. Try to limit the amount you take from time to time to prevent your body from building tolerance. Don’t take too much or you risk putting yourself in a dangerous spot.
Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others so the amount of caffeine their body can process before leading to side effects is always little; if you are in this category take note of the amount of caffeine you consumed before experiencing the side effects of caffeine. This would help you know what your limit is and how to steer clear of it.
Another thing to note is that caffeine can stay in the body for up to six hours before its effects start reducing. So, it is best to avoid taking coffee late afternoon or in the evening as it could impact your sleep negatively.
The only thing the Heart Foundation guides against is that you should stay away from high caffeinated products and pure caffeine as their effects are lethal on the body.