The Dangers of Caffeine

The Dangers of Caffeine

Caffeine is one of the most highly abused substances of modern day. There have been numerous health claims over the years of increased metabolic rate, increased weight-loss, improved sports performance, and concentration and awareness. Yes these claims in part can ring true but they certainly are not associated with improved health! All of these effects occur because caffeine contains a chemical called benzoic acid which is a toxic and addictive chemical that acts as a drug stimulant. Stimulants are “sympathomimetic’. What this means is caffeine mimics the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, or drives your “fight or flight” response. Adrenaline and cortisol (along with noradrenaline – a neurotransmitter) are stress hormones that the endocrine system releases in times of danger. They are strong hormones that stimulate the body to respond and cope with an immediate threat. When the body is constantly stimulated to release these hormones, the chronic result is causing more harm than good. Caffeine users are seen to have elevated blood pressure compared to non- caffeine consumers and regular consumption is believed to be a risk factor for heart disease.


Reported effects of caffeine

The following effects are commonly attributed to over-use of caffeine – while reading them bear in mind that what is true for one person may not be true for someone else. Note: Heavy use is considered greater than 350mg or three cups of coffee per day.

  • Stimulates your heart (causing rapid heart rate and palpitations)
  • Stimulates your respiratory system (speeding up breathing rate).
  • Stimulates the cortex of your brain heightening the intensity of mental activity
  • Immune system suppression
  • Increased body temperature
  • Frequent urination and dehydration as caffeine is a diuretic.
  • Increased blood viscosity due to dehydration and increased level of fatty acids
  • Increases calcium loss. The American Medical Journal has reported a correlation between caffeine and decreased bone density or osteoporosis in women.
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dizziness and headaches (due largely to dehydration)
  • After the energy burst, an even greater feeling of fatigue
  • Restlessness and excitability
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Trembling hands
  • Sleeplessness or light sleep patterns
  • Increased stomach acid production which may irritate the stomach lining
  • Makes digestion less effective by relaxing the muscles of your intestinal system
  • Increased pancreatic activity causing overproduction of insulin and decreased insulin sensitivity. This can lead to chronic tiredness due to hypoglycaemia.
  • Decreased absorption of magnesium. Magnesium is an essential mineral utilised in more than 300 enzyme reactions and physiological processes in the body including energy metabolism, effective utilisation of glucose, hormonal balance and proper heart function. Magnesium deficiency is a contributing factor in diabetes and the development of diabetic complications. Low levels of magnesium increase the development of insulin resistance and alter the ability of cells to take up glucose.
  • Studies suggest that caffeine ingestion contributes to insulin resistance (pre Type II diabetes) and impairs glucose and insulin homeostasis (the constant state of internal environment). Even coffee in moderation has this effect.

The effects of caffeine can last throughout the day and into the night because the body takes a long time to break the substance down. After 12 hours of consuming caffeine the body can still contain up to 12% of the original amount.


Caffeine content

The approximate amount of caffeine found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, energy drinks, and caffeine tablets is shown in the table below.


Product                                            Caffeine content

Typical tablet                                  100 mg

Cup of instant coffee*                   60-80 mg

Cup of brewed coffee*                  60-120 mg

Cup of black tea                             10-50 mg

Cola drink                                        13 mg per 100 mL

Can of cola 375 mL                       48 mg

Bottle of cola 600 mL                   78 mg

Red Bull 250 mL                            80 mg

‘V’ 250 mL                                       80 mg

Guarana tablet 1000 mg              40 mg

Cup of hot chocolate                     5-10 mg

*amount of caffeine is depends on the type of coffee bean and size of cup


Every time you drink tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, or cola you are giving your body a ‘hit’ of caffeine. Along with nicotine and alcohol, caffeine is one of the three most widely used mood -affecting drugs in the world. If you have more than two or three caffeine drinks per day your ‘habit’ may be affecting you emotional and physical health much more powerfully than you might first expect.

Which diet is best?

Which diet is best?

Everywhere you turn there is some “expert” promoting another magical diet that will help shed the excess kilos lightning fast, or else they are raving about a miracle super food that can cure any disease known to man! When we are desperate to achieve our goals it is easy to be hypnotized by these marketing magicians and their fantastic claims. So….which diet IS best?

There are countless diets all purporting to be the “best”. Paleo, Atkins, Vegetarian, Vegan, 5:2……….. How do we mere mortals know which one to choose? The promoters use scientific terms and claim that “research has proven………” whilst further supporting their recommendations with numerous testimonials of people who have tried their method and loved the results! Before and after shots are used to lure us in because if others have done it…then so can we! But it’s really not rocket science. The basics are quite simple. When someone puts in less calories than the body uses, the net result is usually weight loss! If you add resistance training to the equation then the body will reshape and the results can be amazing. Individual results are varied due to a wide variety of factors including genetics, hormones, sex, age, health, and physical activity.

If we look back in history we will see that tribes around the world have all flourished on very different diets. Inuits have a base diet of fish, and jungle tribes have a base diet of plants. Some have high fat diets whilst others have low. Some higher in carbs, some higher in protein. To think that there is only ONE right diet for every person on the planet or there is ONE magical super food that will cure all our health problems is just ludicrous! The one thing they all have in common is their diets are “natural” and free of processing and high concentrated sugars. I am a nutritional “atheist” and I believe that the diet best for YOU is the diet that WORKS for you. We have to be our own guinea pigs and experiment with different foods to see the ones that work for us. Variety IS important with food to ensure we get a good range of not only macro but micro nutrients as well (vitamins and minerals). How often we eat should be determined by our bodies and activities and not on misinterpreted scientific data.

It is important to note however that whatever you DO decide to do with your eating, gradual alterations are best for making lifetime behaviour changes. The way you eat (i.e. your diet) shouldn’t have an end date. It should be something you attempt to achieve every day for the rest of your life. Stop making it more complicated than it has to be.