Facts on the Effects of Caffeine
Caffeine is a naturally-occurring mild stimulant that exists in a variety of foods, most notably coffee as well as tea, chocolate and cola drinks. No surprise, the average person consumes an inordinate amount of caffeine annually. Over 113 million people drink at least one cup of coffee per day. The good news: there are many positive health benefits linked to regular caffeine intake. Just make sure this primarily comes in the form of coffee and tea, not soda.
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system by blocking the neurotransmitter adenosine, usually responsible for creating a calming effect on the body. Due to changes in brain chemistry, we feel an increase in neural firing, the nerve cells speed up and blood vessels in the brain constrict. The pituitary gland then responds by telling the adrenal glands to release adrenaline. What comes next? You feel more alert.
The research has shown that caffeine improves athletic performance with minimal risk, especially endurance types of exercise, such as marathons. Just make sure it’s not in excess. The International Olympic Committee and National Collegiate Athletic Association have placed a limit on the amount of caffeine allowed in an athlete’s urine following competition (a level equal to 4-7 cups of coffee).
The list of caffeine’s potential medical benefits is quite compelling. Studies found that regular coffee drinkers can decrease their risk of Parkinson’s disease by almost a whopping 80%. Drinking two cups of coffee per day can lower the chances for colon cancer by 20% and the risk of gallstones by 50%.
Adiponectin is a hormone secreted by our fat cells responsible for improved glucose metabolism and fatty acid oxidation. Decreased levels of this protein are associated with weight gain. Regular coffee intake has been shown to increase adiponectin levels, boosting fat burning and helping keep blood sugar levels in check. In other words, caffeine helps increase energy expenditure.
Along with caffeine, there is another major antioxidant in coffee called phenolic acid. Why is this important? We are all exposed to free radicals that can increase inflammation levels in our bodies. Inflammation has shown to be connected to heart disease, stroke development and diabetes. Phenolic acid can reverse such oxidative stress and damage to our DNA.