Are you the type to get jittery after the caffeine hit of a single espresso – or do you feel unaffected no matter how many coffees you queue up?
There are several reasons why we all react differently to caffeine. Chief among them is the amount of an enzyme called CYP1A2 in your liver, and that’s because of your genes.
People with lower levels of CYP1A2 take longer to break down caffeine; they also feel its stimulating effects more sharply.
But even if you think you can “hold” your caffeine well, there are good reasons to limit it.
The NHS recommends that adults drink no more than 400mg per day (for pregnant women it’s 200mg).
Are you the type to get jittery after the caffeine hit of a single espresso – or do you feel unaffected no matter how much coffee?
Even if you think you can “hold” your caffeine well, there are good reasons to limit it
But since a standard cup of instant coffee contains about 100mg (takeaway coffee can contain three times that amount), a mug of tea about 55mg and even a bar of dark chocolate about 80mg per 100g, it can quickly add up.
Although we tend to think that caffeine is only present in tea or coffee, it is found in its pure form in 60 different plants, from the kola nut to cocoa.
Caffeine has some surprising health benefits — for example, it’s been linked to a reduced risk of some skin cancers (more on that later) — but of course it’s best known as a stimulant, which wakes us up and improves our health. focus.
It has this effect because it blocks the action of a chemical called adenosine, which is produced naturally in the body, mainly in the liver.
Adenosine binds to receptors found on cells around our body – including nerve cells in the brain, where they play a role in our sleep/wake cycle.
Normally, our levels of adenosine rise during the day and it binds to these receptors. As a result, it slows nerve cell activity, making us feel sleepy and tired.
But caffeine, which is chemically similar to adenosine, also sticks to these receptors. This blocks the path of the anesthetic adenosine in the brain, resulting in us feeling perky and alert.
While that can be helpful in the morning, it’s a reason to avoid caffeine later in the day (I personally don’t have any after noon). But you can make the most of its energizing effect by having your caffeine an hour before you need a mental — or physical — boost.
Caffeine is quickly absorbed in the gut and levels peak in about an hour and fall on average over the next five hours.
You can use that “high performance” window to do work that requires extra brain power or to make a workout more bearable.
A review published last year in the journal Nutrients found that caffeine increased runners’ endurance and improved their times.
But shot after shot of caffeine won’t make you feel more alert or run faster; research suggests that a second cup of coffee only perks you up if you drink it eight hours after your first.
In one study, 49 habitual caffeine drinkers were given coffee or a placebo drink at different times of the day — and asked to repeat mental tasks at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 5 p.m.
Did you know?
The results showed that the first coffee of the day (after eight hours of abstinence or more) improved cognition, as did a coffee at 5 p.m. (after an eight-hour break from the first) — but the snacks had no effect, it reported. journal Psychopharmacology in 2005.
This may be because caffeine is broken down in the liver and when you consume anything above 100mg, this process slows down.
Caffeine has other short-term benefits. For example, it increases thermogenesis – the rate at which you burn calories to generate heat – thanks to the resulting increase in hormones such as epinephrine, which stimulate fat burning.
These effects don’t last that long – a few hours at most – but it’s enough to make a difference.
A study in the journal Obesity in 2007 found that having 300 mg of caffeine led to burning about 100 extra calories during the day. In theory, this would mean that 300mg of caffeine per day could prevent nearly 5kg (about 11lb) of weight per year. But the reality is less impressive because over time your body adapts to the thermogenesis effects of caffeine.
This is why ‘metabolism-boosting’ pills loaded with caffeine do not lead to weight loss in the long run.
One of the more unusual things about caffeine is its association with a reduced risk of skin cancer. Studies have shown that caffeine drinkers are less likely to have basal cell carcinoma (the most common of all skin cancers) and malignant melanoma (the more deadly form).
A 2012 study in the journal Cancer Research found that those who consumed more than three cups of coffee per day had the lowest risk of basal cell carcinoma compared to those who drank coffee only occasionally.
We suspect it’s the caffeine and not other components at work, as a 2016 review in the journal PLOS One found that people who drank coffee had a lower risk of melanoma, but those who stuck to decaf did not.
Separate research has identified a possible mechanism: Caffeine helps our bodies identify and remove damaged skin cells, reducing the threat of cancer.
But while caffeine can lay claim to some impressive benefits, there are drawbacks as well. One that will surprise anyone who swears they need a caffeine fix to calm them down is that it raises your stress level. That’s because caffeine increases levels of cortisol, an important stress hormone, which increases heart rate and blood pressure.
A landmark 1990s study involving 25 men given either a caffeinated drink or a placebo before a stressful task found that the caffeine group’s cortisol levels were twice those of a placebo.
My suggestion is that if you have a job interview or some other stressful event coming up, it’s probably not a good day to drink multiple coffees.
Caffeine is also an intestinal stimulant: it stimulates the production of the hormone gastrin, which stimulates the muscle in the last part of the large intestine. If you have a sensitive gut, it can lead to diarrhea and abdominal pain.
It can also relax the valve at the bottom of the esophagus, which stops stomach contents from coming up. So if you have acid reflux, stick to half of the 400mg daily limit.
I wouldn’t want to do away with my morning coffee, but I’m sticking to one—and I’ve started having my dark chocolate treat after lunch instead of before bed.
TRY THIS: Frothy cashew latte
Forget the hassle of soaking and straining, this nutty latte uses whole cashews, saving you time and giving you an extra dose of prebiotic fiber to feed your gut microbes, on top of those beneficials in coffee. It is also wonderfully creamy.
- 250 ml of hot coffee, made to your strength preference
- 30 g roasted cashew nuts
- 1 Medjoul date
Place all ingredients in a high powered blender and blend for one minute, or until smooth. Taste and adjust flavors to your preference.
On top of those beneficial substances in coffee, it is also wonderfully creamy
Forget fussing about soaking and sifting, this nutty latte uses whole cashews
Tip: If you’re craving indulgence, use salted roasted cashews for a flavor explosion. While they do contain a little added salt, that’s pretty negligible in the grand scheme of a whole plant-based diet.
I’m 57 and over the course of perimenopause – and now menopause – I’ve developed a big belly. This could be hereditary as I remember my grandma was stocky built but I’d like to know what kind of diet could change it. I don’t eat sweet things and only drink a few glasses of wine on weekends. I do love wholemeal bread and I eat quite a bit of pasta.
Tina Sims, by email.
Abdominal weight gain during perimenopause and menopause is very common – a 2021 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that compared to premenopause, women’s weight gain around the middle was greater during menopause.
This change in fat distribution is believed to be due to a combination of factors, such as hormonal changes and reduced physical activity, which are often attributed to symptoms related to menopause (such as fatigue) and therefore reduced muscle mass.
Abdominal weight gain during perimenopause and menopause is very common
To counteract these effects, maintaining muscle mass through regular exercise and spreading your protein intake throughout the day (which helps stimulate muscle growth) can be game-changing.
It’s also more important to minimize blood sugar spikes, which are more pronounced in menopause, leading to increased fatigue and food cravings (I’ll explain more about this in my next column).
An easy way to do this is to eat your carbohydrate-rich foods (such as bread and pasta) with protein, fiber or healthy fat. For example, take an egg (protein) and tomato (fiber) with your bread instead of jam, another carbohydrate.
I would also replace your bread with whole wheat sourdough if available as it has been shown to have a lower impact on blood sugar.
Contact Megan Rossi
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Good Health, Daily Mail, 9 Derry Street, London, W8 5HY — please include contact details. Dr. Megan Rossi cannot comment on personal correspondence. Answers should be taken in a general context; Always consult your doctor in case of health problems