Caffeine’s health impact?

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Caffeine has both positive and negative effects on health. It is a stimulant that can increase alertness and metabolism, but can also cause jitters, poor sleep, and addiction. Caffeine can be beneficial for those with migraines, but should be limited during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Studies have shown that caffeine does not increase the risk of breast or ovarian cancer or osteoporosis. Caffeine can cause mild dehydration, so it is important to monitor fluid intake, especially in hot climates.

There is much debate about the health effects of caffeine and whether these effects are primarily positive or negative. Caffeine, especially in coffee, has been studied carefully to determine where it can be beneficial and where it can cause unwanted effects.
Caffeine is a stimulant. In healthy adults this means that the effects of caffeine will tend to make you feel more alert, less sleepy and temporarily boost your metabolism. However, since it is a stimulant, one of the effects of caffeine is worn off a few hours after ingestion. If a person drinks coffee or other caffeinated beverages all day long, he or she is unlikely to feel this drop in mood or alertness. The person who only drinks caffeinated beverages in the morning may feel more tired as the day goes on.

For some people, the stimulating effects of caffeine can cause jitters, increased irritation, or poor sleep. Individual response varies greatly. Some groups of people should avoid caffeine altogether. Those with heart rhythm problems, a likelihood of developing arrhythmias, or who have panic or anxiety disorders probably won’t benefit from the effects of caffeine. In fact, consumption can exacerbate these ailments.

Another of the negative effects of caffeine is that it is mildly addictive. Those who consume caffeine regularly are subject to caffeine withdrawal if they abstain for a day or two. This usually presents itself as a terrible headache and excessive sleepiness. The side effects of caffeine withdrawal tend to last two to three days.

Noticing the headaches caused by caffeine withdrawal has led researchers to study the effects of caffeine on those with persistent headaches or migraines. Research has found that caffeine is actually highly beneficial for those with migraines or frequent headaches. Over-the-counter medications such as Excedrin® combine aspirin, caffeine and acetaminophen and are thought to be the most effective in treating headaches. Migraine sufferers often take a caffeine supplement at the first signs of an oncoming migraine. In this way the effects of caffeine are beneficial.

The effects of caffeine have also been studied in pregnant women. It is currently thought that moderate use of caffeine, perhaps a cup or two of coffee a day, is unlikely to have an effect on a child’s growth. It is also unlikely to affect fertility or cause miscarriage. Some of these studies have been criticized because the population of pregnant women has undergone changes. Women are now likely to have children later in life, which can affect both fertility and miscarriage rates. So the debate still rages on the effects of caffeine on pregnant women.

Caffeine passes into breast milk and can affect the nursing baby. Excessive caffeine in breast milk can cause irritability or drowsiness. Other children appear to be unaffected by moms who consume caffeine. Most pediatricians advise nursing mothers to consume no more than one cup of coffee per day to avoid the undesirable effects of caffeine in a nursing baby.

The effects of caffeine on women in general have been studied extensively to see if caffeine intake increases the risks for certain types of cancer. In 1990, three studies concluded that the risk of breast cancer is not increased by caffeine. Additional studies in the 1990s also concluded that ovarian cancer risk does not increase in caffeine users. Caffeine is also not indicated in the development of osteoporosis.

Because caffeine is a mild diuretic, the effects of caffeine for those without sufficient fluid intake can cause mild dehydration. If one regularly indulges in caffeinated beverages, the fluid intake of water or juice should be increased. Doctors urge people to especially monitor their caffeine intake during very hot climates or when traveling in hot climates. The effects of caffeine in such conditions are likely to be more harmful than good.

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