That familiar buzz you
get from your staple skinny latte can be potentially dangerous but that
doesn’t mean that everyone needs to kick the habit. Here’s what
actually goes down when you drink coffee.
Are you drinking too much coffee?
Regular coffee drinkers may be over their caffeine limit but could
be completely oblivious to the fact. And, with many food, drink and
pharmaceutical companies adding caffeine to their products,
non-coffee-consumers may be even more unaware of their intake, resulting in
side effects such as irritability, headaches and restlessness being brushed
But is it really such a concern in the first place? Experts remain
divided. “There are a number of conflicting studies on the positive and
negative consequences of caffeine,” says Demitri Constantinou, adjunct
professor of Sports and Exercise Medicine at Wits University and director for
the Centre for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. “There is some evidence of
the health benefits and there are differences in individual
responses. There is a level of tolerance, so some of the effects may
subside over time. The problems mostly relate to the side effects, such as
sleep disturbances, abdominal cramps, heartburn, diarrhoea, palpitations,
anxiety, hand tremors and excessive sweating.” No wonder we’re confused.
On a basic level, here’s what actually happens with that 8am java
Read more: Can caffeine really help you lose those last few kilos?
When you drink coffee
Once caffeine hits your bloodstream, it’s shuttled straight
to the liver, which breaks it into tiny molecules. Those then course
through your veins, binding to cells, stealing the spots of the
sleep-inducing chemical adenosine. With less adenosine to temper it, your
brain is in overdrive.
Mentally, you’re more alert. Production of feel-good dopamine
ramps up. Your blood vessels have sprung into action: as they constrict,
your heart beats faster, pumping extra oxygen to your organs. Your body
reaches peak caffeine levels 15 to 45 minutes after ingestion. The
outcome, however, lasts much longer. Depending on your genes and what
medication you take, you could be wired for the next five to
Read more: If you dust drank way too much coffee, here’s what you should do
Sounds great, right? Unless you’ve gone over your personal
limit. Caffeine overkill can cancel out too much adenosine, overstimulating
In 2013, a study concluded that coffee drinkers may have shorter
life spans and that caffeine can also disrupt sleep, further leading to a list
of problems, such as weight gain, weakened immunity and poor concentration. New
research has also found that it has the ability to leave people wanting more,
driving them towards sugary drinks.
Even if you don’t go overboard, take note: brain
cells respond to the repeated blocking of adenosine by
producing more and more of the stuff, which will
hit you harder once your buzz wears off. Ideally, wait
until about 10am for your java jolt and – it practically goes without saying –
skip caffeine within six hours of bedtime. As with anything else, awareness and
moderation are key. Read labels and if you feel jittery or your caffeine
crashes are intense, it’s time to cut back.
article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.
Image credit: iStock