Coffee, tea, energy drinks, soda pop, and even chocolate all contain caffeine. Some people choose to go caffeine free in the interest of a healthy lifestyle, while others use caffeine for its health benefits. But how much do we really know about caffeine? What’s true about our favourite pick me up and what’s based in myth? Here are eight myths and facts about caffeine.
7) FACT: It gives you energy
The expression “gives you energy” is not technically accurate, as the only source of all human energy is the food we eat. However, caffeine does stimulate the body to produce energy out of that food. Caffeine increases metabolism and fat oxidation, which allows stored fat to be broken down into its component parts and used for energy. It increases the secretion of adrenalin, which in turn increases heart rate and therefore oxygen flow throughout the body, and it triggers your liver to release sugar into the bloodstream. This sounds great, but be careful about using caffeine as an energy booster. Too much caffeine can mean too much adrenalin, and overproduction of adrenalin can put unwanted stress on your body, especially the endocrine system. So while there is certainly some logic to having a pot of coffee to help you finish a one-off overdue project, the long-term effects of regular caffeine use may outweigh the short term benefits.
6) MYTH: Coffee dehydrates you
Caffeine is a minor diuretic, however the amount of increased urination induced by the caffeine in coffee is nullified by the water content of the drink. Many people wrongly believe that the diuretic effects of caffeine negate any hydration provided by the liquid it contains but in fact, the opposite is true. The myth that coffee dehydrates comes from a small study done in 1928 that seemed to link coffee drinking to increased urination. Science has come a long way since the 20s and newer studies have found no link between dehydration and coffee.
5) FACT: It’s addictive
If you’ve ever paid close attention to the behaviour of your coworkers when the office is out of coffee, this should come as no surprise to you. Though legal and unregulated everywhere, caffeine is classified as a drug and it is possible and easy to develop a mild to moderate physical dependence on it. Withdrawal symptoms normally start within a day of quitting and can include headache, muscle cramps, trouble concentrating, and even nausea. So if you’re the kind of person who buys a coffee for a panhandler instead of giving them your change because you think they might spend it on addictive drugs, you may want to rethink your strategy.
4) MYTH: Tea has more caffeine than coffee
We’re not sure how this myth came to be, but you’ve probably heard it a few times as a conversation starter or from a contrarian friend. The truth is that while tea does contain caffeine, it is still far outdone by coffee for caffeine content. According to research published by the Mayo Clinic, The average 8oz cup of coffee contains 95-200mg of caffeine, while an equal amount of black tea contains 14-70mg. The amount of caffeine in either of these beverages will be affected by factors like brew time, roast, and the genes of the specific batch of leaves/beans in question, but even black tea that falls on the high end of the caffeine spectrum has less caffeine than coffee on the low end.
3) MYTH: Green tea contains more caffeine than black tea
“Okay,” says your contrarian friend, “but green tea has more caffeine than black tea.” Nope. According to the same Mayo Clinic publication, 8oz of green tea contains 24-45mg of caffeine. So some green teas may contain slightly more caffeine than some black teas while other green teas will contain less caffeine than other black teas. In truth, the difference is negligible.
2) FACT: Decaf coffee actually contains a small amount of caffeine
This is true and the same is true of decaf tea. Both decaffeinated coffee and black tea contain 2-12mg of caffeine. Most coffee and tea decaffeination processes use chemical soaks and rinses to remove the caffeine but there will always be some residue that can’t be lifted. The only way to truly ensure there is no caffeine in your beverage is to choose herbal teas that are naturally caffeine free like camomile, mint, and ginger.
1) MYTH and FACT: It can help relieve constipation
The science is still out on this one. Participants in some studies have reported regularly having bowel movements after drinking coffee, however no scientific research to date has been able to explain why this is. Plus, it doesn’t happen in everyone. There is evidence to suggest that caffeine can stimulate movement in the various sphincters within the digestive tract (there’s more than one), however this same stimulation can be induced by ingesting a small amount of food.
Like most foods, caffeine has its pros and cons. However you choose to use caffeine, we hope you use it as part of a healthy lifestyle.