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Caffeine is a naturally occurring alkaline compound that is best known for its properties as a stimulant. The most common sources of caffeine found today are coffee and black tea, which are consumed throughout the world. Indeed, as much as 90% of adult Americans drink caffeinated beverages every day. But how much is too much? In this article, we discuss the impacts of caffeine consumption on your health, and which foods and drinks provide caffeine.

Sources of caffeine

Caffeine is a compound produced by certain plants as a natural pesticide. The substance paralyzes or even kills insects that attempt to feed on the leaves and stems, and it is these plants that are used in creating caffeine products for human consumption. Caffeine is most commonly consumed in the form of coffee and tea, but large quantities of caffeine can also be found in dark chocolate, guarana, and yerba mate. Caffeine is also used as an additive in energy drinks and soft drinks, and can also be purchased in the form of concentrated liquids or pills.

Health benefits of caffeine

The most obvious health benefits of caffeine, and the reason why it is consumed in such large quantities worldwide, is that it serves as a stimulant, improving thought processes, wakefulness, focus, and coordination, especially in sleep-deprived states. This systemic stimulation of the body can also increase metabolism and willingness to carry out activities.

In addition, caffeine is associated with a decreased risk of developing cancer. In particular, moderate regular coffee consumption appears to help prevent liver, endometrial, and colorectal cancer. Coffee may also aid in the prevention of liver cirrhosis. In addition, caffeine is often prescribed in combination with anesthetics for increased pain relief. In this context, some people also find that drinking coffee or strong tea helps prevent and treat migraines. Caffeine can also aid in treating certain disorders such as anxiety, depression, and panic disorder, although these effects vary widely among different individuals.

Health risks of caffeine

Most health risks from caffeine are derived from either chronic use, such as 4 cups of coffee every day over several years, or from acute overdoses, such as taking excess caffeine pills and energy drinks to stay up all night studying for an exam. Caffeine overdoses (e.g., more than 500mg in a single event) produce restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and gastrointestinal discomfort. Since every individual responds to caffeine in a different manner, these symptoms may occur for some people even after consuming only one or two cups of coffee. Extreme overdoses can produce mania, depression, psychosis, rhabdomyolysis, and even death.

However, the majority of people consume coffee and other caffeine products on a more chronic, subtle basis. The mean global consumption of caffeine amounts to 1 serving of a caffeinated beverage per person per day. The result of this chronic but moderate level of consumption is usually caffeine dependence or addiction. Regular coffee drinkers often feel that they cannot function properly until they have had their daily dose of caffeine. Withdrawal can cause headache, irritability, insomnia, and an inability to concentrate. Regular consumption can also lead to tolerance, in which the primary effects of caffeine are no longer felt, or require a greater dose in order to be felt. In general, however, moderate consumption of coffee or tea (1-2 cups per day, 3-5 days per week) can provide the positive stimulatory effects of caffeine without risking serious side effects. The best strategy is to gauge your body’s reaction to caffeine. If you start to observe negative symptoms, such as irritability, insomnia, or tolerance, or if these symptoms occur when you do not drink coffee, you should consider lowering your intake.

Amanda Maynes is an aspiring writer with a wealth of knowledge in the areas of health and fitness. She enjoys researching and writing about different topics with the aim of benefiting her readers.

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