As I sip my second warm mug of Starbucks’ French Roast this morning, a thought came to me…am I damaging my health by drinking my favorite beverage every day? True, caffeine is the world’s most widely used drug, and its health benefits and risks have been debated for years. While conflicting studies will continue to be published linking caffeine to this or that medical problem, there are some potential risks linked to the active substance found in your coffee, tea, soda or energy drink:
1) Cardiovascular. Caffeine can increase blood pressure, heart rate and the risk of irregular heart rhythms. In rare instances these effects alone or in combination may fuel a heart attack, stroke or heart failure.
2) Neurological. Caffeine can cause tremors (shaking), migraines, insomnia, anxiety and may precipitate panic attacks.
3) Digestive. Caffeine can worsen irritable bowel syndrome (spastic colon) as well as make acid generated reflux and stomach irritation more difficult to control.
4) Gynecologic. Caffeine can increase the risk or worsen fibrocystic disease, a benign but painful breast condition in women.
Typically, these health problems are associated with heavy caffeine consumption, classified as four or more brewed cups of coffee per day. However, individuals who don’t genetically metabolize caffeine as efficiently, those who infrequently consume caffeinated beverages, as well as children and adolescents can experience side effects with lesser amounts.
Although there are some clear risks associated with caffeine consumption, typically at higher doses, our drink of choice is generally considered safe for most adults when enjoyed in moderation.