Caffeine: Are There Health Benefits?

Caffeine has been a part of human culture for centuries, and you can find it in coffee, tea, mate, and chocolate. Before it was a recreational morning pick-me-up, people used caffeine for health reasons. The energetic effects of coffee are well-known, but some people give it more credit than it may be due. Science has shown that caffeine does have health benefits, but it has some negative effects on the body as well.

Nutrition Information

Caffeine comes from a variety of plant sources like cocoa beans, tea leaves, and koala nuts. So, you can find caffeine in a number of different foods and drinks. This includes coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and foods with chocolate.

Depending on how you prepare your coffee, it may include sodium and sugar. Caffeinated foods like chocolates may come with other nutrients like fiber or carbohydrates, but these foods and drinks are best in moderation.

Without additives, there are little to no nutrients. One K-Cup pod of Arabica coffee contains:

  • Calories: 0
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams

The same cup of coffee contains 120 milligrams of potassium and 4.98 milligrams of sodium.

Experts recommend no more than 400 milligrams of coffee daily, which amounts to about four regular-sized cups. However, because the amount of caffeine in each drink will vary, this recommended dosage will depend on what you’re consuming. Talk to your doctor about whether you need to cut back on caffeine consumption.

Potential Health Benefits of Caffeine

You can find caffeine in many different foods, where it can provide some significant health benefits. However, the same aspects that make caffeine so healthy can also create complications for people with certain medical conditions.

Research has found several potential health benefits to consuming caffeine, including:

Boost Energy Levels

By far, the most famous effect of caffeine is its ability to help energize people. This occurs because caffeine is a substance known as a stimulant, which helps create an improved mood, higher levels of alertness, and lower levels of self-reported fatigue among users.

Studies have shown that this is more than just a placebo effect; caffeine can in fact put some pep in your step.

Continued

Increased Metabolic Rate

The same stimulant effect that can help make you more alert may also give your metabolism a boost. Consuming the amount of caffeine found in a single cup of coffee has been linked to a 3-4% increase in metabolic rate. This means that consuming caffeine may slightly increase the number of calories you burn in a day.

Researchers are still studying to confirm whether this effect happens on its own. Another possibility is that caffeine reduces fatigue and encourages more movement or exercise in people.

Improves Exercise Performance

The same reduction in fatigue may help you exercise more efficiently. Studies suggest that consuming a moderate amount of caffeine before exercise can help improve your athletic performance and reduce your fatigue during the exercise.

Caffeine may even make exercise feel less difficult, which can help you enjoy the process more and exercise more frequently.

May Improve Heart Health

Coffee is associated with an increased heart rate, so some people assume caffeine may cause a risk of heart problems. However, in moderate amounts, consuming caffeine may actually reduce your risk of heart disease.

One study compared a wide variety of caffeine consumption levels. Researchers concluded that women who consumed moderate amounts of caffeine had a significantly lower risk of heart disease than women who consumed less. 

Potential Risks of Caffeine

Although caffeine has some health benefits, you shouldn’t consume it heavily. Caffeine can interact with medications and health conditions to cause negative consequences. Consider the following before consuming caffeine:

Habit-Forming 

First and foremost, caffeine is habit-forming and may become addictive. Consuming caffeine in large amounts for a long period of time can lead to withdrawal feelings such as headaches and irritability in many people. While caffeine withdrawal is mild compared to many other forms of withdrawal, it can still be unpleasant. Consider the potential effects before increasing your caffeine consumption.

May Cause Headaches

Caffeine can lead to headaches and migraines for two reasons. First, if you have formed a caffeine addiction, failing to consume caffeine one day can lead to withdrawal symptoms like headaches. Meanwhile, consuming a much larger amount of caffeine than you normally do can also cause headaches. While some patients who have migraines find caffeine to help reduce their symptoms, other people find that consuming caffeine triggers migraines. 

Continued

Medication Interactions

Caffeine can interact with a number of drugs. People who have been prescribed drugs including antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti-arrhythmia, or psoriasis medications should consult with their doctor before adding caffeine to their regular diet to prevent negative pharmaceutical interactions. 

May Cause Anxiety

Some people find that caffeine can make them feel more anxious than normal. Large amounts of caffeine can trigger the production of a compound known as kynurenine, which is connected to feelings of anxiety. This effect can be reduced by consuming lower amounts of caffeine. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 08, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers.”

Biological Psychiatry: “Caffeine-induced anxiety and increase of Kynurenine concentration in plasma of healthy subjects: A pilot study.”

Food Components to Enhance Performance: “Effects of Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood, and Alertness in Sleep-Deprived Humans.”

Forensic Science International: “Caffeine fatalities—four case reports.”

Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology: “Notes on the History of Caffeine Use.”

International Journal of Cardiology: “Coffee consumption and risk of coronary heart diseases: A meta-analysis of 21 prospective cohort studies.”

Journal of Headache Pain: “Caffeine in the management of patients with headache.”

Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy: “Neuropsychological effects of caffeine: Is caffeine addictive?”

PLOS One: “The metabolic and performance effects of caffeine compared to coffee during endurance exercise.”

Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports: “Effects of caffeine ingestion on rating of perceived exertion during and after exercise: a meta‐analysis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much?”

USDA: “COFFEE.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination

Get Diet and Fitness Tips In Your Inbox

Eat better and exercise smarter. Sign up for the Food & Fitness newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.