British neuroscientist and sleep expert from explains: “When the nature of work changed from a schedule built around the sun to an indoor job timed by a clock, humans had to adapt.
The widespread use of caffeinated food and drink—in combination with the invention of electric light—allowed people to cope with a work schedule set by the clock, not by daylight or the natural sleep cycle.” In addition, scientific studies have shown that the power boost of caffeine is connected with its interference with adenosine – a chemical in our bodies, which has hypnotic effect and works as a natural sleeping pill. Caffeine actually ceases adenosine and in this way our alertness gets increased and our sleep habits are disrupted. As we all know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch and we pay for this extra wakefulness.
Experts from the FDA claim that our health is in danger as long as the consumption remains between 200 mg to 300 mg of caffeine per day, which is equal to around two or three cups of coffee. They also say that caffeine contains components such as Niacin, Magnesium and Potassium, which play a vital role for our health: Potassium is essential for nerves function, Magnesium is of importance in our bones and teeth and Niacin aids in the metabolism of sugars and has an essential role for the proper function of intestines. If consumed moderately, caffeine acts as an anti-oxidant, sucking up free radicals. Unfortunately, the refreshing effects of caffeine urge us to constantly increase consumption in order to eliminate brain fog and fatigue.
Caffeine is an addictive drug, which alters our brain’s natural state and stimulates it in a manner similar to mechanisms employed by cocaine and heroin: it provokes a release of adrenalin, so that the body remains active and alert. It also manipulates dopamine production and that’s how we experience temporary high levels of energy; our productivity improves and we become more coordinated. Caffeine affects our whole body, stimulating the cardiovascular system, raising our blood pressure and heart rate. This process speeds up our basal metabolic rate and we burn more calories. As a result we obtain a wakeup jolt, because caffeine evokes a stress response in our adrenal hormones, the so called “fight-or-flight” response. This is how our body prepares for action and remains in the state of alertness, no matter if we are sitting on our desks, or reading our newspaper on the sofa. When stress hormones remain elevated for long periods of time, our bodies experience chronic stress, which provokes exhaustion and craving for the next sip of coffee, coke or soda.
Exactly how caffeine affects us depends on many factors, including the amount ingested, our individual peculiarities (sex, weight and height, age) and whether we are smokers or non-smokers. Studies show that some people are more sensitive to its effects than others. However, when consumed frequently our body develops tolerance to caffeine and this represents a significant health risk. At doses of 600 mg, or 6 cups of coffee, caffeine can lead to:
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Heartburn – caffeine is alkaline, which spurs the stomach to react by dumping more hydrochloric acid as a neuralizer
- Severe headaches and sweating
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems and rapid palpitations
- Muscle stiffness – caffeine increases the loss of calcium and magnesium, which has a negative impact on muscle tissues, impeding their relaxation mechanism.
- Withdrawal symptoms may also occur, even when moderate amounts of caffeine are withdrawn for 18 to 48 hours. One may feel severe exhaustion, depression and poor concentration.
Strategies for reduction of caffeine intake and tips to give it up completely:
In order to gradually reduce the amount of caffeine intake a good tactic is to reduce the number of coffee cups by one every week (For example: 4 cups a day in the first week, 3 in the second, 2 in the third, 1 in the fourth). In this way the withdrawal symptoms will be much less severe.