THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF CAFFEINE

November 21st, 2011

THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF CAFFEINE 

 Caffeine containing beverages such as coffee and black teas have no nutritional value, but have been drunk for their stimulating effects.  For a long time, the popularity of caffeine has led people to ignore the initial discoveries of caffeine’s harmful effects on health. Now the dangers are fairly clear, and it is hard to refute the evidence of the many difficulties generated by this addictive drug. Possible negative effects from caffeine use and abuse include the following:

 Negative Influence on Vitamins and Minerals:

  • Caffeine’s diuretic effect causes loss of potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc and other minerals, the B Vitamins, especially thiamin, B1, and Vitamin C. 
  • Caffeine, and particularly coffee, reduces absorption of iron and calcium, especially when it is drunk around mealtime.  These minerals are extremely important for women. Osteoporosis and anemia are thus more common with regular coffee users.
  • In children and adolescents, caffeinated drinks interfere with the essential minerals needed for growth and development.

Irritation of Gastrointestinal Tract:

  • Caffeine promotes ulcer production, aggravates existing ulcers and aggravates heartburn. 
  • Caffeine stimulates acid secretion in the stomach. Ten and a 1/2 ounces of coffee (two small cups) provokes an increase in HCl output for more than an hour in a healthy person. In someone with an ulcer, the effect is greater and lasts more than two hours.  In addition, caffeine interferes with the healing process in the GI tract.
  • Caffeine relaxes the smooth muscle in the colon and can lead to diarrhea.  The laxative effect of caffeine can also create a dependency.
  • The volatile oils in coffee which create its characteristic flavor and aroma are called caffeols.  They can irritate the lining of the stomach and digestive tract.

 Effects on Cardiovascular System:

  • Caffeine clearly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, through a number of negative cardiovascular effects.
  • Caffeine raises the blood pressure. Hypertension is a risk factor in atherosclerosis, and heart disease.
  • Caffeine increases cholesterol and triglyceride blood levels, also risk factors in cardiovascular disease.
  • Heart rhythm disturbances and arrhythmias, though usually of a mild type, occur with caffeine. Disturbances include a generally increased heart rate and excitability of the heart nerve conduction system, leading to both palpitations and extra beats.
  • Caffeine also increases norepinephrine secretion, which causes some vasoconstriction (restricted blood flow).
  • Caffeine inhibits the enzyme phosphodiesterase, which is responsible for destroying cyclic AMP.  This interferes with the control of fat and blood glucose levels.  This causes marked and prolonged elevation of blood glucose and free fatty acids.  This tends to raise cholesterol levels and thus increase the risk of atherosclerosis.
  • Because of the cardiovascular stimulation of caffeine, it seems reasonable to assume that drinking 4 to 5 cups of coffee per day would increase the incidence of myocardial infarction.

 Effects on Central Nervous System:

  • Caffeine has a number of metabolic effects as a central nervous system stimulant. Common side effects of caffeine use include excess nervousness, irritability, insomnia, “restless legs,” dizziness, and subsequent fatigue.
  • Headaches commonly occur as a result of caffeine use.
  • Psychological symptoms of general anxiety or panic attacks may also occur.
  • Hyperactivity and bed-wetting may also develop in children who consume caffeine.

The Exhausting Effects of Caffeine:

  • The adrenal exhaustion/stress/fatigue/hypoglycemia syndrome is associated with caffeine use.  
  • Both stress and sugar intake tend to pressure and weaken the adrenal function, resulting in fatigue.
  • Caffeine can override this fatigue and restimulate the adrenals, eventually leading to chronic fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, and subsequent inability to handle stress and sugar intake.
  • Caffeine has an overall effect of increasing blood sugar (especially when it is sweetened), by stimulating the adrenal glands. 
  • Caffeine decreases the amount of sleep people get but does not decrease the need for sleep.  Thus coffee users are often suffering from sleep deprivation.

Association of Caffeine Intake with Increased Cancer Incidence:

  • Bladder cancer is associated with caffeine intake. Bladder cancer is aggravated by the combination of nicotine and caffeine due to the mild dehydration that results from the use of these two drugs.
  • The occurrence of ovarian cancer is increased in women with an association of long-term coffee intake.
  • Pancreatic cancer, which is very deadly, has also been in question as occurring more frequently with increased coffee use (more than three cups per day).
  • Prostate enlargement and cancer may also be attributed to increased caffeine intake.
  • There is a higher incidence of stomach cancer with more than five cups per day.

Kidneys:  Caffeine is also correlated with kidney stones, possibly as a result of its diuretic effect and of the effects of chemicals used in processing coffee.

Fibrocystic Breast Disease:  Fibrocystic breast disease may also be consequence of caffeine use.  Some women are more sensitive to caffeine use and they experience increases in size and number of cysts with increased use of caffeine. They experience a reduction of disease when they stop using caffeine.

 Special Concerns During Pregnancy:

  • Birth defects have been noted with higher levels of caffeine use during pregnancy.  Caffeine crosses the placenta and affects the fetus.
  • It has mutagenic effects. It breaks chromosomes in the nuclei of cells. It interferes with the repair of DNA.
  • Spontaneous abortions are more frequent with coffee drinking early in pregnancy.
  • Caffeine also gets into breast milk, so it is wise to limit its use during the nursing period to prevent having a jittery and irritable baby.

 COMMON SYMPTOMS OF CAFFEINE ABUSE

Nervousness Headache Increased heart rate
Anxiety Upset stomach Irregular heartbeat
Irritability GI irritation Elevated blood pressure
Agitation Heartburn Increased cholesterol
Tremors Diarrhea Nutritional deficiencies
Insomnia Fatigue Poor concentration
Depression Dizziness Bed wetting

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF CAFFEINE WITHDRAWAL

 

Headache Constipation Runny nose
Craving Anxiety Nausea
Irritability Nervousness Vomiting
Insomnia Shakiness Cramps
Fatigue Dizziness Ringing in the ear
Depression Drowsiness Feeling of cold
Apathy Inability to concentrate Tachycardia.
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