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Caffeine Myths and Facts

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Caffeine Myth No. 4: Caffeine Is Harmful for Women Trying to Get Pregnant

Many studies show no links between low amounts of caffeine (a cup of coffee per day) and any of the following:

  • trouble conceiving
  • miscarriage
  • birth defects
  • premature birth
  • low birth rate

At the same time, for pregnant women or those attempting pregnancy, the March of Dimes suggests fewer than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day. That's largely because in limited studies, women consuming higher amounts of caffeine had an increased risk for miscarriage.

Caffeine Myth No. 5: Caffeine Has a Dehydrating Effect

Caffeine can make you need to urinate. However, the fluid you consume in caffeinated beverages tends to offset the effects of fluid loss when you urinate. The bottom line is that although caffeine does act as a mild diuretic, studies show drinking caffeinated drinks in moderation doesn't actually cause dehydration.

Caffeine Myth No. 6: Caffeine Harms Children, Who, Today, Consume Even More Than Adults

As of 2004, children ages 6 to 9 consumed about 22 milligrams of caffeine per day. This is well within the recommended limit. However, energy drinks that contain a lot of caffeine are becoming increasingly popular, so this number may go up.

Some kids are sensitive to caffeine, developing temporary anxiety or irritability, with a "crash" afterwards. Also, most caffeine that kids drink is in sodas, energy drinks, or sweetened teas, all of which have high sugar content. These empty calories put kids at higher risk for obesity.

Even if the caffeine itself isn't harmful, caffeinated drinks are generally not good for kids.

Caffeine Myth No. 7: Caffeine Can Help You Sober Up

Actually, research suggests that people only think caffeine helps them sober up. For example, people who drink caffeine along with alcohol think they're OK behind the wheel. But the truth is reaction time and judgment are still impaired. College kids who drink both alcohol and caffeine are actually more likely to have car accidents.

Caffeine Myth No. 8: Caffeine Has No Health Benefits

Caffeine has few proven health benefits. But the list of caffeine's potential benefits is interesting. Any regular coffee drinker may tell you that caffeine improves alertness, concentration, energy, clear-headedness, and feelings of sociability. You might even be the type who needs that first cup o' Joe each morning before you say a single word. Scientific studies support these subjective findings. One French study even showed a slower decline in cognitive ability among women who consumed caffeine.

Other possible benefits include helping certain types of headache pain. Some people's asthma also appears to benefit from caffeine. These research findings are intriguing, but still need to be proven.

Limited evidence suggests caffeine may also reduce the risk of the following:

  • Parkinson's disease
  • liver disease
  • colorectal cancer
  • type 2 diabetes
  • dementia

Despite its potential benefits, don't forget that high levels of caffeine may have adverse effects. More studies are needed to confirm both its benefits and potential risks.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 20, 2013
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