Pros and Cons of the Caffeine Craze
Caffeine drinks are trendy, but are there some downsides? WebMD gets the perspective of experts.
The Benefits of Caffeine continued...
It can improve your short-term memory and speed up your reaction times, according to a study presented in 2005 at the Radiological Society of North America.
Moderate coffee consumption -- defined as three or four cups a day, providing 300 or 400 milligrams of caffeine -- carries "little evidence of health risks and some evidence of health benefits," conclude researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University in Corvalis, writing in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in March 2006.
Coffee drinking, the researchers say, may help prevent type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and liver disease, including liver cancer. And it doesn't appear to significantly increase heart disease risk or cancer. But, they warn, those with high blood pressure, as well as children, teens, and the elderly, may be more vulnerable to caffeine's adverse effects.
The Downsides of Caffeine
Caffeine does boost blood pressure, Lane and others have found. Although the rise is temporary, Lane questions whether it's good for you when it occurs over and over. After much research, he has concluded that repeated elevations in blood pressure and increases in your reactions to daily stress that occur with caffeine intake could boost the risk of heart disease. He worries, too, about the boost in blood glucose levels that accompanies caffeine intake.
Daily soft drink consumption may lower bone mineral density in women but not men, researchers from Tufts University reported in the October 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Caffeine abuse is an emerging problem, some experts say, especially as caffeine shows up in more products and in higher amounts. Soda sizes have gotten larger, the amount of caffeine in the so-called energy drinks has increased, and dietary supplements for weight loss often include caffeine.
The problem may be particularly prevalent among young people, according to a team of researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago. When they tracked calls to the Illinois Poison Center in Chicago for three years, they found that more than 250 cases of medical complications occurred from ingesting caffeine supplements and that 12% of the callers had to be hospitalized. The average age of the callers was 21. The researchers reported their findings at the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians in New Orleans.
"There are quite a few new energy drinks, and diet pills often use caffeine," says study researcher Danielle McCarthy, MD, a resident at Northwestern University. Often, she says, a doctor may not think to ask about these products when taking a medical history. Those who were hospitalized often had consumed other pharmaceutical products along with too much caffeine. Caffeine abuse symptoms include insomnia, tremors, nausea, vomiting, chest pains, and palpitations, among others, McCarthy says.