Caffeine often gets mixed reviews regarding its health effects. It has been found that when it is consumed in moderate amounts (<400 mg/day) it will cause no adverse health effects in adults and in fact can offer several health benefits. However, when caffeine is combined with other ingredients to make energy products like soft drinks and energy drinks, the benefits can be overtaken by the poor effects of other added ingredients.
How Caffeine Works: Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical stimulant called trimethylxanthine. When consumed, it blocks adenosine receptors in the brain which are important in the process of sleep. By blocking this process, it has the reverse effect and makes you feel awake or more alert. Caffeine also effects dopamine production which is a neurotransmitter that activates the pleasure centers in your brain, which can result in an improved mood.
Ups of Caffeine:
- Heightened alertness
- Increased memory
- Increased concentration
- Improved mood
- Improved reaction time and logical reasoning
- Increased stamina during exercise
- Helps treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s, dementia, cataracts, asthma, headaches/migraines and depression
- Helps decrease the risk of kidney stones, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, gallstones, cirrhosis, and some cancers
Downs of Caffeine:
- Disrupted sleep patterns/insomnia
- Increased anxiety
- Caffeine dependence/addiction
Coffee and tea have natural occurring sources of caffeine. When consumed in moderation and in their pure form, both are great sources and when combined with other natural occurring antioxidants can have many health benefits. However, when you begin to add additional ingredients, like sugar (including artificial sweeteners) and creamer, your tea or coffee can go from a healthy drink to the opposite if added in abundance.
As for energy drinks and soft drinks, caffeine is not naturally found in these but instead added during the production process along with a number of other artificial flavors. While energy drinks and soft drinks may have comparable amounts of caffeine to tea or coffee, the sugar content is much higher to provide an instant energy stimulant.
Sugar-free or diet drinks are no exception. To make up for the lack of sugar, artificial sweeteners are added to the drinks and can be just as bad or worse than sugar. When consumed on a regular basis, the added sugars and sugar substitutes in soft drinks and energy drinks can eventually lead to health conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes. Along with the added sugar, energy drinks and soft drinks also include ingredients like phosphoric acid, aspartame and artificial coloring which can lead to other health concerns like heart and kidney problems, tooth decay, muscle loss and osteoporosis.