Caffeine is a substance found in food that can affect the body. It has been deemed safe by the FDA, but additional research was recommended in 1978. Since then, many studies have been conducted on caffeine and its relationship to various health concerns. However, there are still some questions and misunderstandings about the effects of caffeine on health. The impact of caffeine on an individual depends on several factors, such as how much is consumed, how often, and individual differences in metabolism and sensitivity.
Caffeine and Children
Children are not more sensitive to caffeine than adults, including those diagnosed as hyperactive. Research shows that children metabolize caffeine more quickly than adults and generally consume less caffeine than adults, even considering their smaller size. Studies have also found that caffeine is not a cause of attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity.
Caffeine and Cancer
Medical research no longer supports the belief that caffeine or coffee are linked to certain cancers. Numerous studies conducted over the years have found no correlation between coffee or tea consumption and various types of cancer, including digestive tract, bladder, rectal, colon, pancreatic, and breast cancer. The American Cancer Society and the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council have both stated that there is no convincing evidence linking caffeine to any type of cancer.
Caffeine and Cardiovascular Diseases
Studies have extensively examined the relationship between caffeine and cardiovascular diseases. Although a 1986 study suggested a link between excessive coffee consumption and heart disease, many subsequent studies have failed to find a significant link between cardiovascular disease and consumption of coffee and caffeine. A Harvard University study concluded that caffeine consumption causes no substantial increase in the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke, and a case-control study indicated that coffee consumption led to a small increase in the level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is believed to protect against and lower the risk for coronary heart disease. Other studies have shown that any temporary rise in blood pressure due to caffeine consumption is less than the elevation produced by normal daily activities, and caffeine intake is inversely correlated with both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Caffeine and Women’s Health
Studies suggest that moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy and post-menopause does not have adverse effects on fetuses or women’s health. Research indicates that caffeine consumption has little or no effect on the time to conceive or on the risk of continued infertility in women. In addition, there is no evidence that moderate caffeine intake has adverse effects on pregnancy or pregnancy outcomes. There is no association between delayed conception and the consumption of caffeinated beverages among nonsmokers. However, a reduction in caffeine consumption in women with nausea may lead to erroneous associations between caffeine and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Finally, research on the relationship between caffeine intake and osteoporosis is ongoing, but caffeine has not been found to significantly affect calcium absorption or excretion.
Caffeine and Withdrawal
Caffeine can act as a mild stimulant to the central nervous system depending on the amount ingested. While some people refer to caffeine as addictive, moderate consumption of caffeine is safe and is not the same as addictive drugs. Abruptly stopping regular caffeine consumption can cause temporary withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, or drowsiness, but these can be avoided if caffeine cessation is gradual. Most people who consume caffeine do not exhibit dependent, compulsive behavior seen in drug dependency. Although caffeine is pharmacologically active, its behavioral effects are minor, and it does not cause occupational or recreational activities to be neglected in favor of drug-seeking behavior, which is characteristic of drugs of dependence.