Caffeine: how does it affect our health?

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WHEN we wake up in the morning, many of us reach for a coffee to kick-start our day. According to the International Coffee Organization, approximately 1.6 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide every day.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state that the average amount of caffeine consumed in the US is approximately 300 mg per person per day – the equivalent to between two and four cups of coffee.
This is considered to be a moderate caffeine intake, which according to many studies, can promote a variety of health benefits.
But some studies claim otherwise, even suggesting that one or two cups of coffee a day may negatively impact our health. So, what are we to believe? We analyze the potential health benefits, as well as the negative side effects of caffeine consumption.
The main ingredient in coffee is caffeine – a compound that naturally derives from over 60 different plant sources, including coffee beans, tea leaves, cacao seeds and cola nut seeds.
Caffeine acts as a stimulant by activating the central nervous system. It can combat tiredness and improve concentration and focus. According to the University of Michigan Health Service, the stimulating effects of caffeine can start as early as 15 minutes after consumption and last up to 6 hours.
Other than coffee, caffeine is commonly consumed through tea, soft drinks – particularly energy drinks – and chocolate. It is also found in some prescription and non-prescription drugs, such as cold, allergy and pain medication.
As well as its stimulating effects, caffeine has been heralded for providing an array of health benefits. Some studies have suggested that drinking three or four cups of coffee a day may reduce the risk of liver, mouth and throat cancer.
Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that consuming three cups of coffee a day may reduce the risk of liver cancer by 50%, while another study suggests that drinking four cups a day could halve the risk of mouth and throat cancer.
Caffeine consumption has also been associated with positive effects on the brain. Last year, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health suggested that drinking between two and four cups of coffee a day may reduce suicide risk in adults, while more recent research found that ingesting 200 mg of caffeine each day may boost long-term memory. Other studies have also suggested that caffeine intake may protect against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

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