There are many of us who can’t bear the thought of getting through the day without at least one cup of steaming hot coffee. From improving endurance performance, to enhancing concentration and reducing the likelihood of obesity, the benefits that come with caffeine consumption are pretty sizeable. Yet, not all that glitters (or in this case, percolates) is gold. To prove or dispel these conjectures, here are three explanations on the real effects of caffeine.
Claim: Caffeine leads to dehydration
Myth or Fact: There is a common misconception that caffeine is a diuretic, and therefore increases the body’s production of urine. While caffeine is, in fact, a weak diuretic and hence contributes to an increased need to urinate, this does not mean that it will lead to dehydration.
In fact, a 2005 study which aimed to determine if 3 different levels of controlled caffeine consumption affected hydration found that healthy individuals who consumed varying amounts of caffeine (0mg, 3mg or 6mg) for five days with no other dietary caffeine intake did not suffer from hypohydration. This proves that consuming caffeine does not lead to dehydration, as long as it is taken in moderate amounts.
Claim: Caffeine interferes with sleep
Myth or Fact: When you’re unable to sleep at night and have a hard time battling disrupted rest, do you sometimes find yourself blaming it on that cup of cold-brew you had just before going to bed? Well, a 2013 study found that 400mg of caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime can reduce sleep by more than 1 hour. Other effects include sleep disturbance and disruptions to your circadian rhythm, which can affect physiological processes that exacerbate fatigue and insomnia. Caffeine is after all considered a stimulant, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to consume it around bedtime.
Claim: High doses of caffeine may be harmful to pregnancy
Myth or Fact: It is true that large amounts of caffeine can have an adverse effect on foetal growth. Research has shown that a foetus (which is still developing) is unable to fully metabolise the caffeine that crosses the placenta. Experts such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have recommended that pregnant women limit their daily caffeine consumption to below 200 mg, which equates to about one cup of coffee, to prevent complications in pregnancy.
While many of us may find it difficult to sustain our performance at work (much less function like a normal human being) without drinking coffee, it is important for us raise our own awareness by distinguishing the real and perceived effects of caffeine. Research on the health perks and disadvantages of coffee may still be ongoing, but everything in moderation is more often than not a good rule to live by. If lack of energy is a concern, consider tweaking your daily schedule to get more quality rest in, as opposed to relying on dietary stimulants.