Is Caffeine Actually Good for You?

Is Caffeine Actually Good for You?

Caffeine consumption has been linked to improved memory function and greater risk of heart failure.

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Caffeine is often the staple of every college student's existence. Truckload academics, the pressure to perform, and rampant sleep deprivation all made me turn to coffee and other stimulants to keep my energy churning.

There's a romanticism, too, to dropping by a café and sipping espresso while working on an essay for class. Caffeine is a win-win kind of substance: it can be stylistic and energizing at the same time.

My caffeine dependency has waned since my early college days, yet I still find myself craving it. But is this "dependency" a good thing? Or should I be worried? I decided to do some sleuthing to find out.

The Benefits

Apparently, there is a website called The Caffeine Informer (who knew?). Here, I discovered a slew of benefits linked to caffeine consumption, including improved memory function, liver detoxification, and prevention of weight gain.

A host of studies have also examined caffeine's ability to lower your risk of a variety of cancers, kidney stones, fatty liver disease, and even suicide. Wow! Other studies investigate caffeine's ability to increase athletic performance, general stamina, and cognitive function.

The majority of these studies, however, used the word "associated" or "linked to." In the medical community, such terminology indicates that these studies are not 100% conclusive. Further research needs to be done to ensure that any of these "associations" become "conclusions."

Nonetheless, I can state from experience that caffeine does seem to fire and smoothe those mental circuits rather effectively; I've consumed caffeine prior to workouts with positive results, and I'm fairly certain my liver is happy (TBD). Caffeine can also elevate mood, making it a potential asset for individuals struggling with depression.

The Downside

I appreciated the fact that The Caffeine Informer also included a post scrutinizing the negative aspects of caffeine consumption. These, I will admit, proved to be more alarming—caffeine consumption has been linked to early death, heart failure, breast tissue cysts and cancers, miscarriages, indigestion, and much much more.

AARP was quick to back up these claims, pointing out that caffeine is, indeed, a drug—to which many people can build dependencies. Too much caffeine can indeed be harmful to holistic health, particularly given its capacity to disrupt sleep patterns, elevate anxiety, and even interact badly with certain medications.

One study affirmed caffeine's impact on how we manage blood sugar levels. Sugary caffeinated drinks can essentially lead to blood sugar volatility, "stressing out your brain" and increasing your odds of psychological distress. A similar study pointed to the fact that depressed individuals are more likely to drink high levels of caffeine, and that the substance itself can promote depressive mood.

Given the fact that I weaned myself off of coffee due to its ability to make my heart race—and my agenda loom in an ugly way—this makes a lot of sense. What's more, over 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine on a daily basis, and I assume that a large portion of this percentage tends to over-consume.

The Verdict

No single study, researcher, or article out there will claim that caffeine is entirely beneficial nor entirely detrimental. (I mean, Starbucks has to make a living somehow, yes?)

The bulk of caffeine's advantages and disadvantages appear to be medical associations, making it all the more difficult to define it as a hazard or kitchen-cabinet-standard.

Yet one thread does appear to ring true: the high we crave from caffeine impacts our physiology. It may require some moderation because it can all too easily become a crutch. It has the capacity to provide hazard and health, much like alcohol, other stimulants, and even some herbal supplements.

There are certain vehicles for caffeine that are better than others. Green tea, for example, packs in a lot of antioxidants and amino acids your body craves while delivering a mild energy boost. Gas station energy drinks, on the other hand, tend to offer nothing more than cane sugar and artificial colorings (in addition to a caffeine rush).

My verdict? Treat it like any relationship. Consume if you wish, but consume wisely. Don't be afraid to stop if it's not serving you well.

If you've read this post looking for validation for your current caffeine consumption, I'm not here to provide it (sorry!). I'm merely here to offer some of the facts that are swimming around laboratories, medical mags, and blogging platforms. Such statistics should not feel like a true tragedy. If anything, they should compel the kind of body awareness that can change your life for the better.

There are alternatives to caffeine, particularly if you find yourself reaching for caffeinated beverages for the sake of that vital, intoxicating energy boost. There are scores of mood- and energy-elevating substances, including herbal supplements, that can do the trick nicely, for a fraction (if any) of the biological and physiological cost.

I'm a fan of maca root, for example, consumed in beverage or capsule form. Maca root, also known as Peruvian ginseng, is revered for its capacity to promote stamina, improve cognitive function, and even address fertility issues (although the latter is certainly not on my radar). The surge of energy it offers most consumers doesn't result in the jitters, either, and it's even associated with hormone balancing potential.

You may also wish to try out ashwagandha, a known adaptogen that can reduce the impact of oxidative stress, prevent the development of free radicals (associated with cancer), and keep your energy on an even keel throughout the day. I consume this herb in capsule form, but I've been seeing health food store beverages with traces of ashwagandha lately.

Lastly, check out Chinese ginseng, frequently found in standard strains of tea. Be cautious with ginseng, however, if you are particularly sensitive to caffeine or stimulants. Some people report feeling overly anxious or jittery after consuming ginseng, so use wisely.

For now, if all of this sounds like too much, consider transitioning to more lightly caffeinated beverages, such as green tea (which as less than half the caffeine content of coffee). Easing your body off of this substance may be your key to striking the healthful balance you deserve.

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You Are Only The Main Character In Your Own Life

It's a hard truth to face, but in everyone else's life, you are only a background character.

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You are the main character in your own life.

This is an obvious truth.

The not so obvious truth is the fact that you are a background character in everyone else's life.

Imagine this. You are getting dressed one morning, deciding whether or not you want to wear red pants, because you are afraid of what other people think. You're worried people are going to judge you, or pass comments on your red pants, or point you out to their friends and talk about you and think about you and your red pants all day long.

Here is the honest truth. This won't happen.

We are quick to worry about what others think of us and assume that other people care much, much more than they actually do because we are the main character in our own lives. To us, we are the most important. You are the star of your own show, dedicated to you for your entire life, with hundreds of thousands of people as background characters. This holds true for you, it holds true for me, it holds true for the person who made your coffee order today or the girl you saw in the grocery store.

Do you know what this truth means? It means that literally, no one cares.

No one cares if you wear the red pants.

No one cares if you cut your hair or get a tattoo or post an Instagram picture with a different edit than usual.

We might think that people care because we don't realize that we are only background characters in other people's lives.

As your temporary, honorary internet spokesperson, I am here to tell you this: since no one cares, you should just do whatever it is that you want to do.

Post two times a day. Three times a day. Seven times a day. Document your life unapologetically. Go through radical changes. Go through subtle changes. Literally just do whatever it is that you want to do because yes, people might think about it for a second. They might stop and show their friend a picture and say "oh, look, _____ went skydiving today" or "____ got a nose piercing". And that will be the end of it. And they will move on. And the next day they will not even remember it.

You are the main character in your own life. So write your own story. Do not let others dictate your novel. Background characters are in the background for a reason.

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This is How You Know You're Dating a Narcissist

A narcissistic partner can be subtle, evasive, and insidious.

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I used to think that narcissists were easy to spot.

Narcissists are the guys at the bar eager to talk about themselves. They're the female besties invested in selfies. Right?

I'm naturally uncomfortable around people with ego-centric agendas.

I excuse myself from these conversations and seek out the party-goers standing by the peanuts. I identify with altruistic self-professed nerds.

But narcissism isn't just about staring at yourself in a mirror. A narcissistic partner, in particular, is subtler than that. If you're dating one, you may not even know it yet. I didn't.

1. Responsibility is an illusion.

At the same time, they fail to take responsibility for their own actions and words—especially if these are harmful. On the other hand, they hoard accolades and social trophies and talk about these constantly.

In the narcissist's court of law, they are the judge and everyone else is guilty. In fact, they love the judge's seat. It's where they flourish.

You will feel that it is frequently your fault. If there's an issue, you're almost always to blame.

You may even find yourself taking responsibility for things that weren't yours to begin with. Many times you do, just to smooth things over.

2. Arguments are unproductive.

Healthy couples argue, so they say. Humans get angry. We get especially angry with the people we love.

Productive arguments move relationships forward. They emphasize an issue or a tension and—hopefully—eventually lead to recognition, discussion, and solution.

It is possible to have unproductive arguments with non-narcissists. But narcissists will always raise their fists, keep blame cards at the ready, and maybe use manipulation tactics to derail the argument itself.

A narcissistic partner leaves the other feeling hopeless, confused, and frustrated. Arguments may become shouting matches or result in insults, emotional abuse, or even violence (in the worst cases).

An argument with a narcissist is a circle designed to tire and distract you. Soon, all you want is to get out of that circle and do something actually productive, like eating ice cream or going on a hike.

You may just want to curl up in a ball and pretend it never happened. The bad news about this is that unresolved arguments become wounds, which fester. (I can show you my own scars from these.)

3. Your passions get the side-burner.

I'm sorry to say it, but narcissists don't put you first.

You may have all of these beautiful, bright intentions to chase your passions, try a new career, and generally improve your life. I applaud these.

But your beloved narcissist won't. He or she could care less at the end of the day. Mine certainly had other interests in mind.

Your partner may show superficial support for these interests. If your passions have any potential of treading on their life path, however, beware.

I wanted to apply for an amazing teaching position for which I was highly qualified. I was tired of my office job as an administrative assistant. I was ready to be a mentor for young minds. The job would, however, require me to move across the country.

You guessed it. My little narcissist simply would not have it.

As your interests get the side-burner, your partner's becomes the main show. You may feel as if you play the role of counselor, advisor, and cheerleader more often than the other way around.

This may even diminish your own desire to pursue what you love. Your narcissist may even celebrate this.

4. He (or she) cheats.

I wish this wasn't on this list. Plenty of cheating partners aren't narcissists. But many of them are.

Cheating is a deceptive maneuver. It can also be a means of acquiring emotional and/or sexual attention many narcissists fiercely crave.

Some narcissists develop sex addictions.

They may only feel comfortable dating multiple men or women (or both) at a time. Narcissists are insatiable for any kind of affection or ego-fattening substances, and lots of it.

Unfortunately, many narcissists are good at keeping affairs on the DL. They fly under the radar. If you are suspicious, they lash out, blame you, or smother their deceit with overt romantic gestures.

If you do catch them cheating, they may fall on their knees and apologize. Mine did. But then they'll wake up the next morning and do it all over again.

5. He (or she) is abusive.

Narcissism is a powerful predicate to abuse of any kind. Narcissists may emotionally manipulate partners or resort to physical violence.

They may resort to psychological taunts or insults to make you feel small and unworthy.

If you believe you're in an abusive relationship, I'm here. I have some words just for you.

6. The truth is hard to pin down.

Because narcissists evade responsibility and half-heartedly participate in arguments, they dance clear of the truth.

They aren't good at providing straight answers. They may hide real answers in roundabout, confusing language. Narcissists will especially sidestep honesty if it has anything to do with their own errors or character.

What does this do for communication? Don't get me started. Conversations without at least a skeleton of truth are frequently harmful, manipulative, or heavy-handed.

They frequently end up in places where they didn't begin. That place is often to blame.

7. Generalizations and judgments are the norm.

My narcissistic partner was the king of charm. He gave good hugs. He had a knack for subtle, intimate compliments. He was witty and observant.

He would also surprise me with judgments or generalizations. When my best friend decided to end our friendship, he told me that "she didn't really have that much potential anyway."

He commented on other women being overweight or unattractive. He occasionally put down people of color. He justified any wrongs I experienced by belittling and flat-out degrading the other person.

Judgments like these act as a screen. They bolster hypocrisy. They also make narcissists somehow look better. (I'm still trying to figure out how this actually works.)

When I eventually left, I experienced this character trait to the full.

8. There are eggshells on your feet.

Narcissists are great honeymooners.

Mine was. They may buy you lots of things out of the blue. They may whisk you away to Bora Bora for the holidays. They may make you feel like a queen.

(You are a queen, but not because of your partner.)

At the same time, there are eggshells everywhere. You tread them every day and many times they cut your feet open. You may wonder if you can say or do anything right.

Bonus: You're wondering if your partner is a narcissist.

If you're already pondering the notion of your partner's narcissism, read this article again. That may be your clue.

Remember that many partners will have a few narcissistic tendencies—this does not necessarily mean that they are full-on narcissists.

Others may be self-aware and invested in your well-being. Narcissism is not the automatic exit for partners in a relationship. Nor is it something that can't ever be changed.

But it is common. Keep your eyes open. Be mindful. And remember that your voice should always be heard.

Note: I originally published this piece on Thought Catalog.

Cover Image Credit:

Daria Shevtsova

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