8 things you didn’t know about caffeine

Most of us just can’t get through the day without an extra jolt of this miracle substance


February 27, 2016
PHOTO: FILE

Is there any food more diverging than caffeine? Most of us just can’t get through the day without an extra jolt of this miracle substance, either in our morning chai or coffee. Caffeine is undoubtedly the most prevalent drug on the planet, with billions of people downing it each day, in different forms. But how many of us really know what it’s like? As compiled from eatthis.com, here are some facts about caffeine — the good, the bad and the shaky.

You shouldn’t consume it first thing in the morning

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need caffeine right after you wake up. This is because your body’s stress-hormone levels are highest in the morning when you rise. This mounts highest about 20 to 30 minutes after you leave your bed. Integrating high levels of stress hormones with caffeine can increase your tolerance, making it less effective. The best time to drink your chai or coffee is mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon, when your stress hormones are at their lowest.

It affects people differently

Factors such as age, race and gender are just some of the things that influence how caffeine is processed in the body. Fact is, women generally metabolise and absorb caffeine faster than men, and smokers process and assimilate it in the system twice as quickly as non-smokers. People of Asian heritage tend to metabolise it slower than people of other racial backgrounds, too. But no one should overdo it! As caffeine passes through the brain, signals are sent to the adrenal glands that cause them to pump stress hormones through your body in the imitation of a fight-or-flight response.

It is safe-ish for pregnant women

Moms-to-be can drink caffeine but it’s best if you keep it in moderation as it can cross the placenta and affect the heart rate of an unborn child. According to the Mayo Clinic, a daily caffeine intake of 200 mg is generally fine for both mum and, baby but your doctor should have the final call. Also, coffee and chai aren’t the only culprits — chocolates, energy drinks and painkillers are all hosts to the drug.

Caffeine withdrawal is a real problem

The substance affects the central nervous system and, like other drugs, can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it. In fact, in 2013, dependency on caffeine was added as an anxiety disorder to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Luckily, unlike other drugs, the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal will take care of themselves over time without need for treatment. So worry not, you’re not going to be sent to rehab for being a coffee addict.

It can cause weight gain

The catechins in caffeine-laced green tea can help with fat loss but consuming too much of it regularly can actually make you gain weight. The cause? Bounteous amounts of caffeine boost cortisol — the major stress hormone in your system. Cortisol helps control our bodies but it’s also one of the biggest culprits of weight gain — especially belly fat. For those of you guzzling down black coffee to boost fat burn, limit your cups to no more than two a day.

Caffeine improves workout performance

Need a little extra stimulus to get on that treadmill and actually hit the ‘go’ button? Drink a cup of chai or coffee. This has been proven to increase adrenaline levels in the blood, which prepares your body for physical exertion. For optimal results, drink a cup of simple black coffee about half an hour before you hit the gym or head out for a jog.

It eases symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

A 2012 study published in the journal Neurology examined how caffeine affects the alertness of people with strong symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Participants took a 100 mg caffeine pill twice per day for three weeks, followed by a 200 mg pill twice per day. Six weeks in, those taking the caffeine pills showed a five-point improvement over those in the group who were given placebos.

Caffeine boosts memory

Having trouble remembering the name of Yash Chopra’s last movie or the name of that new person at work who introduced himself to you yesterday? Take a sip from that glass of iced black tea or down that hot chai at least once daily. A study conducted at Johns Hopkins found that test subjects given caffeine and then shown a series of images were better able to recall patterns 24 hours later than those who hadn’t consumed any caffeine.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2016.

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